Thursday, 30 October 2008

Wildlife Photographer of the year winners!

The Wildlife Photographer of the year is now officially open. The winning images, just like the sneak peak images that were previously released, are pretty stunning (although I am not much of a fan of the overall winner).

Troublemaker. Winner of Animal Portraits, by Stefano Unterthiner.

The show. Winner of 15-17 category, by Catriona Parfitt.

Window on the ice melt. Runner up in the One Earth Award, by Ira Meyer.

Cypress Swamp. Winner of In praise of plants, by Cece Fabbro.

Polar Sunrise. Winner of Creative visions of Nature, by Miguel Lasa .

Shark nursery. Runner up in animals in their environments, by Brian Skerry.

I'll resist posting all the photos, but if you're in London, definitely go check out the exhibit (but try and do it on a weekday unless you like crowds). Otherwise, you'll have to wait for the collection to start touring or you'll have to check it out online.

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Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Here comes the sun

The Boston Sun had some sizzling photos of the Sun in all it's yellow glory recent.

A six day animation of the sun, taken by NASA's Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT) and filmed in June 2005.

"A sweeping prominence, a huge cloud of relatively cool dense plasma is seen suspended in the Sun's hot, thin corona. Emission in this spectral line shows the upper chromosphere at a temperature of about 60,000 degrees K (over 100,000 degrees F). The hottest areas appear almost white, while the darker red areas indicate cooler temperatures."

A closeup of magnetic structures on the Sun's surface.

A total solar eclipse, February 16, 1980, in Palem, India

A sunspot and granules on the Sun's surface.

An erupting solar filament. "Filaments are concentrated bundles of magnetic field filled with relatively cool gas, suspended in the solar corona. When they become unstable, they can erupt, triggering coronal mass ejections and solar flares. The dark material here is relatively cool, while the bright material is hotter than a million degrees. As this hot material cools, it condenses and drains down the lines of magnetic field in the corona much like beads moving along a wire, a process some scientists refer to as "coronal rain"."

A visually stunning prominence eruption, seen in extreme UV light. "It rose up and cascaded to the right over several hours, appearing something like a flag unfurling, as it broke apart and headed into space. The material observed is ionized Helium at about 60,000 degrees."

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Tuesday, 21 October 2008

David Attenborough at his best

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Thursday, 9 October 2008

Magic eye 101

While doing a recent survey on Cognitive daily about illusions, I learned an important (and apparently quite well known) lesson -- 'magic eyes' work on the computer. Turns out magic eyes were everywhere on the Internet. But there is was little (and inadequate) explanation of how they work. How do magic eyes work? This simple text-based magic eye provided the insight I needed (to make it work, you might need to view it larger here).

(Props to the first author who writes a book that also has magic eye embedded pictures.)

For how it works, and more on magic eyes on the internet, please read on.

Essentially, our brains piece together the illusion on the basis of slight differences in what our right eye sees and what our left eye sees when we look 'beyond' the image. As wiki unhelpfully explains:

The Magic Eye images have a horizontally repeating pattern which differs slightly with each repetition, therefore giving the illusion of depth when each eye focuses on a different part of the pattern.
But the text magic eye from above, with a little handy work from me, gives a more concrete idea of how it works.

When you lose focus, the repeated texts merge into one, and emerge from the otherwise random background. At least that's how I understand it. More complex, colorful, magic eyes work on the same principle, but the repeated pattern is more complex and therefore harder to pick out.

My digging also showed me that magic eyes have evolved to new levels since I remember looking at them on the internet. They are everywhere, and they can do nearly everything now:
You can make your own magic eye with words (shame about the blatant coca cola add though).
Make your own more arty/abstract magic eye (depending on your artistic predisposition).
Watch a moving magic eye (not actually an eye).
Play pong and tetris. And even allegedly Quake II, but watch out that your eyes don't start bleeding.
And, being the internet, there's even magic eye porn out there too!

I need to get rest my oh-so-tired eyes now.

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Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Fast fungi

Carl Zimmer has been blogging about some seriously fast fungi -- like 180,000 g acceleration fast!

Briefly, Nicholas Money has used a 250,000 frames-a-second (ie, damn fast) camera to record fungi shooting their spores. His recordings show that spores can shoot as far as 2.5 meters, are fired at 55 miles per hour, and experience acceleration of up to 180,000 g. Money calls this “the fastest flight in nature.”

The video, which he put to opera music, is very impressive. The good stuff starts at around 19 seconds.

Money's full published PLoS One paper is available here.

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Monday, 6 October 2008

And the Nobel goes to....

"The scientists who discovered HIV will share the Nobel prize for medicine with the expert who linked human papilloma virus (HPV) to cervical cancer", The BBC reports.

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier get 1/4 of the prize each for their HIV findings, while Harald zur Hausen gets the other 1/2 for his work on HPV.

Last week, the Ig Nobels were also awarded, for "science that makes you laugh, and then think".
Among the winners were:
-Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence, for showing that stale chips taste as good as fresh chips, so long as the stale chips sound like fresh chips. (This reminds me of work be Heston Blumenthal, of the fat duck (one of 'the worlds best restaurants'), who has examined how sound affects taste, with the crunch carrots and also by designing a sound track to accompany a tasting menu.)
-Dorian Raymer and Douglas Smith, who showed mathematically that if it can tangle, it will tangle.
-Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan, who showed that lap dancers make more money in tips when they are ovulating.

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Thursday, 2 October 2008

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008 - highly commended images

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, now in its 44th year, is opening on Oct 31st at the Natural History Museum in London. To get all us nature lovers excited, they have released a sneak peak of some highly commended images:

Angry Queen, by Piotr Naskrecki, shows a Cambodian armoured ant ready to strike. Stand back, unless you enjoy being sprayed by acid.

Treetop Jigsaw, by Brittany Fried. Not only is this photo of the Malasian rainforest really cool, it is in the 10 years and under category.

Spider Crabs in the canary islands, by Jordi Chias Pujol.

A lonely Baobab blowing in the wind. Photographer unknown.

Sterling genie. A swirl of starlings, captured by Baris Koca over Lake Morgan in Turkey.

A hoopoe, sporting a Mohican crest, caught on film by Ramon Navarro Blazquez near Seville.

A hunting vixen, by Patrick Centurioni.

Safieí Al Khaffaf spotted this Griffon vulture on the Russian side of the Caucus mountains. Entered into the 15-17 category.

Namibian bee-eater, by Chris van Rooyen

Some 6,000 sandpipers on a sand bar in Cordova, Alaska. Taken by Arthur Morris.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed by 2007s offerings, but so far I like what I see! Looking forward to the winners being announced on the 29th of Oct, two days before the exhibit opens.

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