Science

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Amazing Science

Dancing Droplets: Researchers Solve the Strange Puzzle of Attraction Found in Drops of Food Coloring

April 1, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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A trio of researchers at Stanford recently published an article in Nature that explains the curious attraction found in droplets of everyday food coloring. The paper is the culmination of hundreds of experiments that began in 2009 when Nate Circa was working on an unrelated experiment as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin. Circa noticed that when drops of food coloring were placed on a slide they exhibited bizarre behaviors: identical colors would find matches while different colors would seemingly hunt each other.

Circa soon teamed up with Manu Prakash and Adrien Benusiglio who began working on a series of increasingly refined studies to understand why these single droplets appeared to mimic biological processes, resulting in behaviors that looked like chasing, dancing, or avoidance. One of the keys was the interaction of two different compounds found in food coloring: water and propylene glycol. Tom Abate writing for Stanford explains:

The critical fact was that food coloring is a two-component fluid. In such fluids, two different chemical compounds coexist while retaining separate molecular identities. The droplets in this experiment consisted of two molecular compounds found naturally in food coloring: water and propylene glycol. The researchers discovered how the dynamic interactions of these two molecular components enabled inanimate droplets to mimic some of the behaviors of living cells.

This complex behavior is something called artificial chemotaxis which Manu Prakash explains in layman’s terms in the video above:

The physical properties of these fluids give rise to this immense complexity of behavior. For example, chasing and sensing each other, and very much what we call artificial chemotaxis. Chemotaxis is the idea in biology that one single cell can sense where its enemy is, and it brings up all its machinery, and it chases that enemy to try to eat it.

If you really want to get into the nitty gritty of fluid dynamics and molecular physics you can read the full paper in Nature and a bit of a summary on Stanford News. (via, appropriately, F*ck Yeah Fluid Dynamics)

 

 



Art Science

A Sprawling New Cut Paper Bacterium by Rogan Brown

March 31, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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Cut Microbe (2015 handcut paper)

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Artist Rogan Brown (previously) recently completed work on this new cut paper sculpture titled Cut Microbe. Four months in the making, the piece is a continuation of Brown’s exploration of the human biome and was inspired by the form of salmonella and ecoli bacteria (this 44″ sculpture is about half a million times bigger than the real thing). The sculpture will be on view this May as part of a commission by the Eden Project in the UK. You can see more of Rogan’s work on his website.

 

 



Amazing Science

This Humidity-Powered Seed Plants Itself by Drilling into the Ground

March 23, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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Now in contention for the world’s most incredible seed, I give you the seed of the Erodium plant. Powered by humidity, the seed falls to the ground and turns clockwise when wet (or counter-clockwise when dry) to effectively drill itself straight into the ground like a screw. The process here is sped up a bit, but it doesn’t appear to be edited or reversed. (via The Awesomer)

 

 



Craft Science

New Cross-Stitched Microbes and Germs by Alicia Watkins

March 20, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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It’s been a year since we last stumbled onto these embroidered germs and microbes by Alicia Watkins (previously). Her comprehensive menagerie of microbial maladies has grown extensively. You can see much more in her shop.

 

 



Science

Two Vividly-Marked Peacock Spider Species Nicknamed "Sparklemuffin" and "Skeletorus" Discovered in Queensland

March 12, 2015

Kate Sierzputowski

© Jürgen Otto

© Jürgen Otto

© Jürgen Otto

© Jürgen Otto

© Jürgen Otto

© Jürgen Otto

Two new species of peacock spiders have been discovered in southeast Queensland, Australia—one appearing with vivid reds and blues while the other’s details exist in stark black and white. Peacock spiders, named after their bright patterns and dancelike courtship, measure in at just under 0.3 inches. Madeline Girard, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, discovered the two species while in the field, nicknaming the brightly colored spider “Sparklemuffin” and the other “Skeletorus” after its bonelike pattern.

Jürgen Otto, an entomologist who specializes in photographing the arachnids said Skeletorus, officially named Maratus sceletus, is completely different than any peacock spider previously discovered. “Despite the large number of species we have discovered just in the last few years, I can’t help feeling that we may have just scratched the surface of this most exciting group of spiders, and that nature has quite a few more surprises in store,” Otto told Live Science. You can read more in depth about these colorful arachnids in Live Science’s article here. (via My Modern Met)

 

 



Design Science

This Bubbling Ferrofluid Light Works like a Magnetized Lava Lamp

March 4, 2015

Christopher Jobson

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We’ve seen a number of interesting ways to play with magnetized ferrofluid over the last few years, but here’s a new one worth a mention. Designer Kyle Haines just launched a Kickstarter featuring his design for a “motion lamp” filled with heated ferrofluid that can be manipulated with a pair of magnets called the Inspiration. The idea works somewhat similar to the iconic 60s-era lava lamp but with a magnetized twist. For those who just want to play with ferrofluid without the lamp, he’s also create a smaller self-contained bottle called the Thinker. See a video of them in action here.