If the Moon and Mars had oceans, what would they look like?

Here’s a fun thing to imagine. What if the moon and mars had oceans? People have often wondered what Mars looked like billions of years ago when water flowed freely across its surface. With elevation maps of both celestial bodies available, all we have to do to get an idea of what it would have looked like is fill in the lower elevations with water using a computer model. Here’s Seth Kadish’s (from Vizual Statistix) take on the idea:



Here are some other renderings of what Mars might look like if it were habitable from Deviant Art user Ittiz:




Photos: Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

Last month, the European Space Agency craft called Rosetta put a lander called Philae on the surface of this comet. This was a historic moment for mankind. The photos that were transmitted by the craft back to Earth are stunningly beautiful. Here are a selection.



For size comparison, I have included renderings of the comet hovering over New York City and Paris.


Super-Resolution Fluorescence Microscopy

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Eric Betzig for his work on super-resolution fluorescence microscopy. Many people are excited about this because Betzig essentially built a microscope that is metaphorically comparable in caliber to the Hubble telescope. Here is a quick summary of what he did and why it is awesome.

In order to understand what Betzig did, we have to start by understanding what the problem he solved was. In Microscopy, the main problem had to do with Abbe’s resolution limit. This limit describes the point at which two objects that are close together can no longer be distinguished from each other. The objects, in this case, are molecules or even individual atoms. As two molecules get closer together, the beams of light that are emitted/reflect off of them into the microscope’s lens begin to overlap. When this happens, the overlapping portions of both light waves combine to create a larger wave. As a result, the gap between both molecules is impossible to see and they are indistinguishable in the final image. The figure below explains how this happens and was taken from this website: http://www.cell.com/fulltext/S0092-8674(10)01420-0

Betzig overcame this problem by developing a system that collects light emitted first from one molecule and second from the other to produce two separate images, one image for each molecule, and then combines both images to make a third image of both objects together. Because the light collected from the objects in each of the original two images is in a slightly different location, they are distinguishable in the the third image. Below is a quick movie of the principle being applied to an image of the Eiffel Tower as it sparkles at night over Paris. This is very simplistic explanation of what Betzig did when he created his PALM system. There is a lot of math and chemistry involved in the full explanation on the wikipedia article about the subject which you can check out here: Photoactivated Localiztion Microscropy (PALM)


A cool story: on the day Betzig was awarded the Nobel Prize, researchers in his lab announced that they were able to use his techniques to produce groundbreaking images of T-cells fighting HIV infected cells. Below is an image of a T-cell (orange) interacting with a target cell (blue). This image represents a stunning advance compared with the simplistic pictures of complex biological processes available when I was a kid. Check it out:


Here are some cool images taken using this system.


<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/109406489″>Movie S12 High Resolution</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user33367262″>HHMI NEWS</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


C. elegans embryo (roundworm commonly found in soil)

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/109405154″>Movie S15 High Resolution</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user33367262″>HHMI NEWS</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


T. thermophila (a common protozoan found in freshwater ponds)

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/109404940″>Movie S13 High Resolution</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user33367262″>HHMI NEWS</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Search for Flight MH370 returns new images of ocean floor

The tragedy of the loss of Flight MH370, the Malaysian Airline jet that disappeared earlier this year in March continues to capture the speculative minds of the world. The very idea that in this age, with satellites circling the earth and intelligence agencies monitoring our movements, we could have lost an airplane with hundreds of people on board is mind-boggling and terrifying.

The search for the jet continues and has focussed on a remote area of the South Indian Ocean where scientists and engineers say the plane likely went down based on calculations made by combining data from satellite recordings of last communications from the jets engines with the last known direction of the flight and estimates of the amount of fuel that the jet had left before it lost contact with traffic control. So far the search has returned nothing. But an international team of scientists who have been combing the sea floor for evidence of the plane’s wreckage have returned amazing images of extinct volcanoes, mountain ranges higher than the alps, and deep depressions.

Map of seabed from flight MH370 hunt

The bumps in the picture above are extinct volcanoes called sea mounts.

Map of seabed from flight MH370 hunt

Map of seabed from flight MH370 hunt

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-29378953