EyePoppers: The Best Science Photos of the Week
The latest findings in the world of science, as told through pictures. By John Brandon

Up Close with a Blood Clot

This electron micrograph of a blood clot shows an exceptional level of detail, part of the Wellcome Images collection. For this image, the photograph was enhanced to show detail and color, but in the center of the image, there is a clearly identifiable white blood cell surrounded by a blood clot.

(David Gregory & Debbie Marshall/Wellcome Images)

Animal? Vegetable? Both?

This green sea slug – found on the East coast of the US and Canada -- has an interesting ability: It can synthesize the green pigment chemical chlorophyll like a plant. Researcher Sidney K. Pierce, working at the University of South Florida, used a radioactive tracing technique to make sure the slug it actually producing the chemical and not nearby algae. Photosynthesis is a process of converting carbon dioxide into another compound using sunlight.

(Mary S. Tyler/PNAS)

Martian Dunes?

This remarkable image, taken in the north latitudes of Mars, looks like the science-fiction imagery of the 1960s. Except it's real. In winter, a layer of carbon dioxide ice covers the dunes and a warm spring sun melts the ice so that it evaporates. Sand becomes dislodged and forms the darker regions around the dunes. The process occurs often enough that there are often small clouds of dust that form around the dunes as well. 

Look closely, and you can also see cracks of ice – these cracks slowly disappear as the ice melts and evaporates. The images were taken with the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, transmitted over the Deep Space network, then to the Jet Propulsion Lab.

(NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

The Color of Mars

The planet Mars gets more fascinating by the minute. New images reveal a varied surface, with bright layered deposits – here, shown near a plateau in the Juventae chasma. Brown, purple, sandy regions appear across the entire 3/4 mile region, illuminated from the left of the image. 

The deposits are consistent with low-temperature regions. Along the walls, researchers have found that bright deposits are consistent with a persistent rainfall and run-off, but have not determined when this could have occurred or from what source. "The stripes are layers of sediments that were probably laid down by water a long time ago," HiRISE Team Member Ken Herkenhoff, told "More recently, they were eroded by windblown sand (the dark dunes seen in this image) to show the layers."

(NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Amazing Pics of Pond Scum

At the Queen Marys' School of Biological and Chemical Sciences in the UK, researchers are discovering some amazing creatures in the pond scum. In this photo, the single-celled Plagiopyla looks like a smiling face or Easter Island statues. 

Discovered in the Freshwater Biological Association's River Laboratory, the study has found at least 30 other invertebrates, most about a half-millimeter in size. The pond is in a state of slow decline, so the aquatic organisms – part of the school’s research into what they call "cryptic biodiversity" are a rare find. Researchers have found an additional batch of about 100 ciliates (single-cell organisms) that are invisible to the naked eye.

(BJ Finlay)

Turn Off Your Brain...With Light

MIT scientists are using colors of light -- called "super silencers" -- to shut down regions of brain activity. Here, a mouse brain is controlled using light that shuts down overactive neurons, in this case the Arch gene. The research is important because it could allow scientists to shut down certain parts of the brain affects by Parkinson's disease, or regions that cause chronic pain or other disabling neurological disorders. 

The light disrupts the ability of a protein to make energy, inhibiting their ability to trigger by not providing the necessary power for firing. Scientists could use colors of light for regions in the brain.

(MIT/Brian Chow, Xue Han, and Ed Boyden)

Over-Expressive Cells

Cell over-expression is a serious problem in cancer treatment. In the new issue of Journal of Cell Biology, Jan van Deursen of Mayo Research explains how a cell (shown here) produces too much UbcH10 protein, then divides into two daughter cells. In the center, a chromozone is not divided evenly, so a cell could end with too many chromosomes and one with not enough.

"Many genes are expressed at abnormal levels in cancer cells, but not all these alterations play a causal role in cancer development," van Duersen told "It is important to identify which gene alterations are relevant. We now demonstrate for UbcH10 that it causes cancer when over-expressed and we provide insight into the mechanism by which it does so. This information can now be used to design new anti-cancer therapies that counteract."

(Jan van Deursen/J Cell Biol)

Awkward Bathtub Guest

This strange creature, found in the basin of Mexico, is thought to have been one of the edible resources for ancient Aztecs. Known as the Axoloti, the species was first discovered in 1245. Texas Tech University released this photo as part of an on-going food study to determine which resources were used for Aztec populations during the formative periods between 500-1000BC near Lake Chalco, and is an attempt to study migrations and food eating habits.

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A Biological Grudge Match

A new biological agent is helping treat plaque psoriasi, a skin disease that affects about 7.5 million people in the U.S. The report is published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine and was a "head-to-head" between to agents, one called STELARA (which received a higher clinical response) and the other called Enbrel. The image is a microscopic anatomy that shows the disease, which can be debilitating and in severe cases covers about 20% of the skin, according to the University of Manchester. The biological agents block the inflammation below the skin.

(University of Manchester)

Bacteria Are Social Creatures

A bacterial species that depends on cooperation to survive is discriminating when it comes to the company it keeps. Scientists from Indiana University Bloomington and Netherlands' Center for Terrestrial Ecology have learned that Myxococcus xanthus cells are able to recognize genetic differences in one another that are so subtle, even the scientists studying them must go to great lengths to tell them apart. 

Upon starvation, groups of up to 100,000 cells of the social bacterium Myxococcus xanthus cooperate to build spore-bearing fruiting bodies (green, false color). A fruiting body is shown here growing on an agar surface (brown).

(Supriya Kadam and Juergen Berger, Max Planck Institute)

Convection Patterns on the Sun

A computer model developed by researchers at NCAR and other institutions simulates convection patterns in the deep interior of the Sun in unprecedented detail. The patterns, known as giant cells, play a critical role in solar variability, influencing magnetic storms that take aim at Earth.

(University Corporation for Atmospheric Research)


Scientists in Texas are reporting the development of a "nanodragster" that may speed the course toward development of a new generation of futuristic molecular machines. The vehicle — only 1/50,000th the width of a human hair — resembles a hot-rod in shape and can outperform previous nano-sized vehicles. 

These machines may find use in manufacturing computer circuits and other electronic components in the future.

(American Chemical Society)

Can Robots Mimic Ants?

Weaver ants (Oecophylla sp.) put the finishing touches on their nests in Buton Island, off the southeast peninsula of Sulawesi, Indonesia. As their name implies, they use living plants to "weave" leaves together to construct their nests, which they vigorously protect. Silk produced only by the larvae helps hold the nest together. 

Scientists are studying the ants' ability to complete complex tasks in order to examine how these findings can be applied to applications for robotics. If ants can produce these intricate constructions, perhaps robots can be developed to mimic their productive behavior.

(James Rosindell)

Improving Genetic Sequencing

A computer visualization shows single-stranded DNA and ions exiting a carbon nanotube. Carbon nanotubes are versatile, cylindrical structures, and they may just have a new function: Stuart Lindsay, director of Arizona State University's Center for Single Molecule Biophysics at the Biodesign Institute, uses a process known as translocation to pass a DNA strand through a nanotube, which may reduce the cost of and simplify genetic sequencing.

(Hao Liu)

Fly Larva

What is it? Why Atherix ibis, the aquatic larva of a a fly magnified 25X. This bizarre image was just one of the award-winning pictures from the annual Nikon Small World contest, which showcases the work of photomicrography -- photos taken through the lens of a microscope. 

(Fabrice Parais/DIREN Basse-Normandie/Nikon Small World)

Fish Scales

Ordinary discus fish scales become beautiful, when magnified 20X and captured by Havi Sarfaty of the Israel Veterinary Association. This photo won sixth place in the 2009 Nikon Small World contest, an annual contest that celebrates the beauty of photomicrography -- images taken through the lens of a microscope. 

(Dr. Havi Sarfaty/Israel Veterinary Association/Nikon Small World)

Deadly Cold Across Europe and Russia

An image from NASA's Earth Observatory satellite shows the freezing cold weather that has been gripping the northern hemisphere of the planet. Blue indicates temperatures as low as -20 Centigrade.

(NASA Earth Observatory)

Getting to Know Bacteria

This colorized image shows a Sebaldella termitidis bacterium in the process of dividing into two separate organisms. The bacteria's genome was recently sequenced as part of the Department of Energy — Joint Genome Institute's (DOE-JGI) Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea (GEBA) project. 

The GEBA project is aimed at systematically filling in the gaps in gene sequencing along the bacterial and archaeal branches of the tree of life. This project represents the first systematic attempt to use the tree of life itself as a guide to sequencing target selection. 

(CDC/ Brian J. Beck, PhD, American Type Culture Collection (ATCC))

Airplane Know-How Helps Tidal Energy

This is the view looking into the test section of the U.S. Air Force Academy's water tunnel. Three blades of a cycloidal turbine — part of a new wave energy system — are visible at the far end.

Engineer Stefan Siegel and his colleagues test the turbine in the tunnel under conditions that emulate shallow-water waves. Wave energy isn't new, but Siegel and his Academy colleagues are the first to apply their aerodynamics training to the problem. Many existing wave energy designs suffer from limited efficiency, susceptibility to storm damage, and the need to be tethered to the seafloor. The new system is more durable and more efficient than alternatives, and it can be placed anywhere in the ocean, regardless of depth.

(Sgt Danny Washburn, U.S. Air Force Academy, Department of Aeronautics)

Tiny Fossils Reveal Ancient Weather

The analysis of microfossils found in ocean sediment is illuminating the environmental conditions that prevailed during Earth's long-ago history. Dr Harding and his former PhD student Dr James Eldrett have reconstructed the environmental conditions of the Eocene Period by carefully analyzing the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms called dinoflagellates.

"Because different dinoflagellate species are adapted to different surface water conditions, their fossilized remains help us reconstruct past environments," said Dr Harding.


Pig Kidneys Are Surprisingly Pretty

This image is a 400X magnification of the cross-section of an arteriole (a very small artery) taken from the kidney of a fetal pig. When stacked, forty-two serial sections produced this unexpected, highly colorful and detailed 3-D image.

(Donald W. Pottle Schepens Eye Research Institute)

The Big Bang Machine Works!

After several false starts and years of hype, the Large Hadron Collider (often called "the big bang machine") seems to be up and running successfully. CERN, the organization behind the collider, has released this screen capture of a handful of proton-proton collision events from within the machine. Hundreds of billions of these collisions will occur every second within the LHC, and may reveal even smaller, previously unseen particles. 


When Lightning Strikes

Storms generally evolve with positive electric charge near their top and negative charge from their middle to cloud base. Scientists are not certain how these charges develop, but they probably involve millions of collisions among ice crystals and large ice particles. 

The negative charge at the cloud base causes a shadow of positive charge on the ground below. The path of a typical cloud-to-ground lightning stroke is carved by a series of stepped leaders, each moving a bundle of charge a distance on the order of a city block. Just before it reaches ground, the step leader induces a huge electric potential — enough to bring up surges of opposite charge from sharp objects or irregularities on the ground. 

(University Corporation for Atmospheric Research)

Mr. Mantis Shrimp

Mantis shrimp or stomatopods (such as this female Pseudosquillana richeri) are an ancient group of marine predators only distantly related to more familiar crustaceans, such as crabs, shrimp and lobsters. 

While most live in shallow tropical marine waters, a few species are found in more temperate seas. Although called mantis shrimp, they are neither shrimp nor mantid (a species of insect), but received their name due to their resemblance to both praying mantis and shrimp. Mantis shrimp appear in a variety of colors, from shades of browns to bright neon colors.

(Roy L. Caldwell, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley)

The Beauty of Fluid Dynamics

When a falling liquid jet collides with a flat surface, the liquid spreads radially until it reaches a critical distance, at which point its depth increases. This abrupt increase in depth is known as a hydraulic jump. 

Typically, a circular jump is produced, but if the liquid is thickened, with a sugar for example, a polygonal or clover-shaped jump occurs. And researchers have recently discovered a new class of jumps that resemble cat's eyes, three and four-leaf clovers, bowties and butterflies.

(Jeff Aristoff, Princeton; John Bush, MIT)

Basket Star

An international study of marine creatures in the Bellingshausen Sea in West Antarctica revealed the bizarrely beautiful diversity of marine life. "Few people realize just how rich in biodiversity the Southern Ocean is," explained research cruise leader and BAS member David Barnes. "Even a single trawl can reveal a fascinating array of weird and wonderful creatures as would be seen on a coral reef."

Here, a basket Star, or Gorganocephalus sp.,that was filmed expanding its curly, branching arms out over about a minute. It was found with its arms intertwined with an octocoral. Posed here, it is able to filter feed on food floating by in the water above the seabed.

(BAS/Peter Bucktrout)

Influenza Virus

A 3D graphical representation of the influenza virus's structure, in which a portion of the protein coat, or capsid, has been cut away to reveal its inner nucleic acid core proteins. 

After weeks of shortages, manufacturers announced this week that swine flu vaccine is plentiful enough that nearly half the states now say everyone can get it, not just people in high-risk groups. But the good news comes with a challenge for health officials: how to keep persuading people to get vaccinated when swine flu infections are waning. "We're worried that people might be thinking out of sight, out of mind," said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(CDC/ Douglas Jordan/Dan Higgins)

Nanotube 100x Stronger than Plastic

A nine-year study of carbon nanotube fibers has resulted in a new Rice University finding: Microscopic fibers, shown in this image, could be processed as a fluid in the same way that scientists currently make plastics. 

The fluid, called chlorosulfonic acid, dissolves in a way that makes it possible to manufacture new types of products. The finding is similar to how scientists originally devised plastic materials, such as grocery bags and toys, using a chemical process. Carbon nanotubes are stronger and conduct electricity, making the potential manufacturing implications quite interesting.

(Rice University)

Shrek to Help Scientists

This 3D renderings depicts a complex process called endocytosis, where cells infiltrate molecules outside a membrane using a protein cage (shown in the center). The image is part of an animation to help students learn about endocytosis. Harvard Medical is using Hollywood-style 3D animation with pixel shading, texture mapping, and shadows to help make the animations more visually interesting. 

"Because molecules are so small (smaller than the wavelength of light) we can't actually see them directly, but we can use techniques to study them indirectly, to understand their shapes and sizes, the way they move around, and their function," says Janet Isawa, a professor involved with the project.

(Janet Iwasa and Tomas Kirchhausen, Harvard Medical School)

Bronze Age Sets a Trend

The University of Glasgow has been digging for clues about the Bronze Age. These meadowsweet blossoms were found in Forteviot, Perthshire, in Scotland at the foot of an ancient grave, revealing for the first time that flowers were laid at funerals as late as 3000 B.C.

Archeologists also found an ancient dagger and the hilt of a sword, likely remnants from a soldier or prominent citizen. Forteviot is the site of an ancient burial ground and was the final resting place for many Scottish kings.

(University of Glasgow)

Smoke on the Water

These plumes from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii show white steam rising from multiple craters, as taken on December 11 by NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite. In May, a report by National Geographic revealed that the volcano — a popular tourist attraction — sits on top of a much more unpredictable layer of ash that probably erupted about 1,000 years ago. According to the Smithsonian, the volcano started a long-term eruption in 1983 that destroyed nearby villages.

(NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response)

The Tetrahedron Takes Shape

This 3D image shows a series of quasicrystals, triangles that take shape at the nanoscale and hint at how a solid can show order without a repeating pattern. In a study, researchers at the university of Michigan simulated the effects of entropy, which usually causes disorder in a simple compound, and found that it also creates order, as shown here. 

A quasicrystal, according to Sharon C. Glotzer, who was involved with the project, has no repeatable pattern in nature. "A tetrahedra makes up the quasicrystal, colored translucently and outlined in black, so you can 'see through' the material," says Glotzer. "In this way, it's easier to see the local patterns that form in the material, like 12-fold symmetric rings of tetrahedra (larger circles) around 'disks' of five tetrahedra (smaller circles)."

(University of Michigan)

Salmonella Linked to Pet Frogs

An African dwarf frog, common in aquariums, may be one cause for salmonella, an illness that leads to fever, diarrhea, and cramping about 12-72 hours after initial contact. Salmonella usually runs its course after a week or so but can lead to more serious side effects — such as an infection in the blood stream — and even death if left untreated. Here, a dwarf frog rests after leaping among tree branches.

(CDC/ Christine Prue/James Gathany)

Removing a Tumor, Carefully

This histology of a tumor shows how broken blood vessels react to the presence of Onyx (shown in black), an ethylene-vinyl alcohol substance that keeps blood vessels from secreting into a nearby artery. The drug is used for removing tumors in the head and neck without as much complication. The research is being conducted at Bielefeld Hospital in Germany.

( Hospital )

More Detailed Ultrasounds

New two-dimensional ultrasound techniques, developed at the Radiology Department of the Izmir Education and Research Hospital in Izmir, Turkey, show far greater detail — such as the head, arms, and legs, even during the first trimester when ultrasound images are typically less distinct. 

The ultrasound technique uses high-frequency transvaginal scanning to increase resolution. Doctors performing these scans will be able to check for embryonic developments and any chromosonal defects.


Cholera Floats, Then Swarms

These free-floating cholera bacteria look harmless enough when they are not formed together, as these individual cells demonstrate. The University of California in Santa Cruz is studying how cholera behaves before it becomes a deadly pathogen, usually during a natural disaster or when the water supply becomes unstable — which is common during war and in poverty-stricken areas. The growth patterns in free-flowing cholera change dramatically and form into a dangerous biofilm.

(University of California, Santa Cruz)

Bug Eyes in the Wild

Science labs across the world churn out the most startling images—maps of the human brain, cancer research that shows how molecules interact, DNA sequences that look like works of art. In this one gallery, we round up the latest findings in the world of science, as told through pictures. 

This adult male Thiodina puerpera jumping spider, captured in the wild, has a body about 7mm long and bulging anterior median eyes to help the spider know when to pounce. Thomas Shahan uses a 28mm lens and has to get low to the ground to capture these close-up photographs. "Jumping spiders are harmless, highly beneficial arthropods that vary greatly in terms of color and appearance — making them one of the most fascinating and beautiful groups of animals on the planet," he says.


Snowflake Study Reveals Ozone Clues

We know every ice crystal is unique, but why? In a Purdue study, doctoral student Travis Knepp grows the crystals in a small chamber and examines how they take shape over time. The main revelation: the crystals make sharp contrasts in shape and size based on the temperature around them and the presence of what Knepp calls a "quasi-liquid" — the thin layer of water present on all ice forms, even your driveway in winter. 

His research, part of the Paul Shepson Lab at Purdue, has implications for studying the ozone layer and climate change, especially in terms of how polar ice caps are receding.

(Paul Shepson Lab/Purdue University)

Parasites That Just Won't Die

New research at Tufts University School of Medicine reveals how a parasite, called Trypanosoma cruzi and known to be the cause of Chagas disease (which affects 8 to 11 million people, mostly in Latin America), can prolong survival in infected cells. 

The parasite, shown here attached to a human cell, activates Akt, an enzyme that prevents the parasite from dying. The research is important in early detection of the disease, which is lifelong but symptoms usually occur only after 10-20 years. Those that suffer from Chagas disease may have had an undetected insect bite as a child.

(Tufts University)

Thanks for the Hubble Retrofits

A new camera on the Hubble space telescope is working quiet well, thanks. The camera — installed on the last space shuttle mission — is already providing some stunning photos, this one of a planetary nebulae called the Bug nebulae. A dying star that emits gas, dust, and ice, the nebulae is like a fantastic cloud, in this case the remains from a star that is 35 times hotter than the sun (2,000c).

(Anthony Holloway, Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics)

Breast Cancer Cells in 3D

This cell sample of breast tissue shows how cancer cells take a 3D shape. The research, conducted by the National Cancer Institute, will helps doctors understand how cancer forms and distinguish between cancerous cells and normal cells, an aid in diagnosing and treating the disease. 

To find the 3D shape, researchers used a process called fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) to examine 20 genes, 11 of them from normal cells and 14 from cancerous cells. During the study, scientists noted that the cancerous cells would take on a distinct 3D shape as shown.

(Meaburn, K.J., et al/J. Cell Biology)

Stem Cells Repair Wounds

Stem cells are like minor miracles: They help generate new kinds of cells and can aid in disease research. In a new study at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, scientists have discovered that skin-derived precursors (SKPs) on skin (shown here) help stem cells to cause a wound to heal. 

This is an important finding because SKPs maintain skin and promote healing, and also cause hair follicles to grow. Once scientists understand how SKPs cause this repair, new drugs could be developed that trigger stem cells into action and help treat diseases such as those in the spinal cord.

(Hospital for Sick Children)

Prehistoric Pottery, Modern Techniques

This image, taken using a scanning electron microscope at the Smithsonian Institute, is part of James Feathers' research project at the University of Washington. Feathers is studying the low-fire, sand-tempered pottery techniques used in prehistoric eras. The ceramic has rounded edges and a smooth service, which are evidence of early sintering techniques, methods for making objects from powder. The photos are part of series that show magnified views of pottery at low-fire and high-fire temperatures.

( of Washington/James Feathers)

DNA Disproves Hitler's Skull

Linda Strausbaugh, a University of Connecticut molecular and cell biology professor, has made a remarkable discovery. Since World War II, this skull — held in the Russian national archives — was believed to be that of Adolf Hitler, found in Germany after his death. 

Strausbaugh used bone fragments from the skull to perform DNA tests that showed the skull was from a woman and could not have been Hitler's. The photograph was taken by Nicholas Bellantoni, an anthology professor at UConn who also works with Connecticut State Museum of Natural History and is the state archeologist.

(University of Connecticut)

Alien Invader or Wildflower?

This extreme close-up of a wildflower took second place in the Nikon Small World competition. Magnified 150 times, the yellow flower looks like an alien antennae, but it's actually a cross-section of one blossom stem from a wildflower known as the sonchus asper. Gerd A. Guenther, an organic farmer from Düsseldorf in Germany, took the photo on his own farm.

(Nikon Small World)

First Place in Genome Wars

This up-close-and-personal image took first place in the Nikon Small World competition, but it's a first in another way as well: The plant (known in scientific circles as Arabidopsis thaliana) is the first to have its genome sequenced. Dr. Heiti Paves of the Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia used confocal microscopy to capture this shot. Dr. Paves also studies chicken embryo development and embryonic neurons.

(Nikon Small World)

Antlion in Your Sandals

Is this a horrifying creature from Mars or just a bed bug that could be resting under your pillow right now? Thankfully, it's neither. The 13x magnification shows a larval-stage antlion, more commonly called a doodlebug or sand bug. Found mainly on dry and sandy beaches in North America and Europe, there are at least 200 species of the antlion. The strands that look like hair are actually more like antennas (called chitin) that sense temperature and chemical changes.

(Janice Haney Carr)

LHC Fully Operational

The Large Hadron Collider, part of the CERN lab in Geneva, is now operational. This simulation shows how two lead ions (atoms that have lost or gained one or more electrons) could collide. The quarks (protons and neutrons) are in red, blue and green. The hadrons (a subatomic particle composed of quarks that cause a reaction) are shown in white. 

The particle accelerator, which experienced problems about a year ago and again this summer, may help scientists determine the origin of the universe. The LHC was featured prominently in the opening sequences of the movies "Angels & Demons," directed by Ron Howard.


Measuring Storm Height

NASA's CloudSat satellite captures Typhoon Nida as it moves over the Western Pacific Ocean. Over the weekend, scientists discovered that the cloud tips were not as high as once thought, which means fewer thunderstorms. Winds are still running as high as 100 MPH, and as of Monday, the weather formation was a Cat 1 storm. The storm approached Guam, causing massive waves, but winds subsequently weakened.


Jumping Peptides

Models of tiny protein segments, called peptides, are shown on a real image of the atomic layer of a crystal structure in this composition from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The biomolecules are difficult to show in any detail on an atomic surface without fudging the data. In the study, the peptides would attack the molecule of an atomic particle, then jump to the next particle. 

The research helps explain the process of biomineralization, a process where organic materials control the growth of inorganic crystals, which can prevent unhealthy deformations in the body.

(James De Yoreo and Raymond Friddle / Lawrence Livermore and Berkeley National Labs)

Complex plant lattices

Intertwining lattices—threads that measure just 100- to 200-nm each—twisting in a helix, a 3D curvature in space. This plant cell shows a synaptonemal complex, which is a cell division that promotes reproduction. The photographer, Dr. Chung-Ju Rachel Wang, won second prize at the Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition with this shot. The yearly competition is now taking submissions for 2010.

(Dr. Chung-Ju Rachel Wang/Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition)

A Water Flea Gets Angry

A water flea, measuring just a millimeter or two, raises a crown (shown at upper left) as a defensive posture to ward off nearby shrimp, its primary foe that—thankfully—emits a distinct chemical in the ocean as a sign of approach. The exoskeleton is shown in green and tiny nuclei are shown with small blue dots all over the upper body. This photo took first place in the Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition.

(Jan Michels/Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition)

Finding the Cancer Cell

Half the battle in finding a cure for cancer is discovering the disease's origin. This month, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology identified for the first time these pre-cancerous cells, which form into a cluster that express a protein (called pdx1) and gene (called K-ras) that lead to pancreatic cancer. The clusters can also form into later stage tumors. The finding is important because it will help doctors diagnose pancreatic cancer that — like brain cancer — is often found too late.


DNA Soup

Diseases such as cystic fibrosis and Miller syndrome are hard to pin down. Doctors don't often know what happens in the gene mutations, so finding a cure is especially difficult. 

The University of Washington has developed a sequencing technique for exomes (subsets of the genome) that found the gene mutation in Miller syndrome, and reveals how exome sequencing can aid in gene research. In this image, four colors represent the four DNA strands: adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine.

(University of Washington)

Mouse X-Ray

A microscopic view of mouse cartilage shows how arthritis has developed at left, and how a new drug treatment—developed at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto—has blocked it. 

"This is the first work that I am aware of that identifies a drug to target the development of joint lining chondrocyte cells to make them behave more like regenerating joint cells, rather that degenerating osteoarthritis cells," says Dr. Ben Alman, a SickKids surgeon. His work could help prevent osteoarthritis growth in patients and negate the need for total joint replacement.


Deep Water Mystery

This Hatchet fish, caught in the Indian Ocean on November 15, is a rare find. The fish has one of the longest daily migrations in the world, rising 700m to the surface each day and then descending to the depths again to digest. 

"This animal comes from the twilight zone where there is still a low level of light but not visible to human eyes," says Sarah Gotheil, an IUCN Global Marine Programme researcher who spoke with us from the Indian Ocean. IUCN seeks to reveal deep water mysteries.

( Alvheim)

Supercomputer Vs. Cat Brain

IBM, along with Stanford University, has released new images that show how the connections work in the brain. The tests, announced this week, mimic the cortical structure of a cat's brain, which has over 1 billion activate neurons and ten trillion learning synapses. 

The the brain is the ultimate computer. Understanding the connections, storage locations, and even low power usage and perception abilities will lead to future advances in computers, and someday the ability to mimic the human brain. 


Networks on Light Beams

Today’s fastest computers could exchange bits of data on light beams, which are screamingly faster than ordinary data networks. But because there’s no such thing as an optical transistor, those light beams—or photonic networks—are limited by today’s electronics. A new optical switch, developed at Cornell, could turn that on its ear.

Says Gustavo Wiederhecker, a Cornell researcher, "Whenever switching is required, optical-to-electronic conversion is necessary, limiting the potential throughput of optical networks. Our device might form the basis for tunable switching in the optical domain."

(Cornell University)

Targeting Cancer

The Tulane Cancer Center in New Orleans will be the first in the US to treat prostate cancer with a new experimental drug already being tested in Europe. The drug, called Alpharadin, destroys cancer cells that have spread to the bone (highlighted in the image) while leaving healthy bone marrow intact. The drug treats late-stage prostate cancer, which kills about 27,000 men each year in the US.

(Tulane Cancer Center)

Water on the Moon

This "ejecta plume" on the moon shows vapor spraying from the planet's surface just a few seconds after the LCROSS Centaur satellite—launched two months ago—made impact on October 9. 

Late last week, NASA revealed its analysis of the moon's composition: The material, probably a mixture of hydrogen or other dense materials, was in a deep crater and has been dormant for billions of years. The discovery provides  much-needed reinvigoration for a possible moon-landing in the next decade.


EyePoppers: The Best Science Photos of the Week

The latest findings in the world of science, as told through pictures. By John Brandon

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