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Some thoughts on Φ from me below …


something i learned today:

the ratio between the size of one digit of one of your fingers and the next digit of the same finger is roughly Φ, the golden ratio. Their lengths line up in an approximate way with sequential fibonacci numbers, because as the fibonacci sequence progresses the ratio between sequential numbers approaches Φ.  i illustrated this in that image using an arbitrary unit of pixels and the grid in photoshop.

but the real cool part is that because of this, when you curl and uncurl your fingers, the path described by a fingertip is pretty close to a perfect golden spiral! what sweetly built machines we pilot over the earth

“What sweetly built machines we pilot over the Earth” … yes, indeed. Our construction is truly amazing.

A few people have asked whether the “appearance” of the Golden Ratio in nature is coincidence, or proof that the number holds some greater biological significance. Some folks have gotten dangerously close to attaching it to the idea that there’s some greater design behind all this grandeur of life. That’s not the case.

Some straight talk about the Golden Ratio: If we stick to a straight mathematics definition, the Golden Ratio truly is golden. As it states above, the ratio between consecutive numbers in the Fibonacci Sequence gets closer and closer to Φ as we go down the list. That’s absolutely true, although Dan Brown went a little nuts with the idea in The Da Vinci Code.

When we start applying the ratio to natural forms, we have to be a bit more careful. Seashells, pineapples, hands and facial ratios might carry proportions close to Φ, but Φ is a VERY precise, infinitely repeating irrational number. Being close to Φ is not the same as being Φ. The truth is, if you were to measure facial distances or finger lengths in a thousand people, you might see an average close to Φ, but there would be quite a bit of variability in either direction.

What we, as scientists, must dismiss is that Φ is evidence of some greater design. Every feature in the natural world, spiraling according to Φ or not, is the result of countless generations of  selection, and the resulting evolution of better and more advantageous forms. While our hands may exhibit finger length ratios close to the golden ratio today, they do so because that is what our evolution demanded they be, and not because Φ is inherently better than any other ratio. A horse’s forelimb has similar bone structure to ours, and no such Golden Ratio. Is its elegant strength less beautiful than our own hand?

We may one day prove that the waves of gene expression in developing embryo hands, or the growth cycle signals of the nautilus shell and the pinecone really are all directly related to the Golden Ratio, but that will be because of the beautiful application of the Fibonacci sequence, and not due to the design of natural splendor using a ruler marked Φ.


From scar tissue to beating mouse hearts: We can rebuild them, we have the technology

If you’re lucky enough to survive a heart attack, you’re often left with half a heart. Not in the literal sense, but the cardiac muscle that was deprived of oxygen during the heart attack will more often than not form scar tissue. This scar tissue doesn’t beat like normal heart tissue, which weakens an already troubled organ.

What if doctors could reverse that damage and turn tough, nearly dead scar tissue back to heart muscle? If this new mouse research can translate to humans, we just might be able to do that.

Out of the ~25,000 genes in the human genome, how many do you think you’d have to add to get regular structural cells to turn to cardiac muscle tissue? 100? 50? How about 3?

By expressing just three genes, Gata4, Mef2c, and Tbx5, fibroblast support cells were able to turn into cardiac muscle, begin beating, and prevent scar tissue formation in mouse hearts. It didn’t require surgery or stem cells. Just adding the three genes on a harmless virus and getting them into hearts was all it took.

Wanna see what these reprogrammed cardiac muscle cells look like? Here’s a video of them beating in a petri dish, thanks to Christie Wilcox.

(via Not Exactly Rocket Science, image of myocardial infarction scar tissue via Wikipedia)


Neil deGrasse Tyson is behind the only major technical change in theTitanic re-release

It took James Cameron 60 weeks to prepare Titanic for its rerelease, but apart from remastering the original at 4k resolution and converting it to stereoscopic 3D, nothing about the movie has really changed.

Well, almost nothing.

According to Cameron: “Neil deGrasse Tyson sent me quite a snarky email saying that, at that time of year [April 15, at 4:20 am], in that position in the Atlantic in 1912, when Rose is lying on the piece of driftwood and staring up at the stars, that is not the star field she would have seen.”

“And with my reputation as a perfectionist, I should have known that and I should have put the right star field in. So I said ‘All right, send me the right stars for that exact time and I’ll put it in the movie.’”

So Tyson did just that, and Cameron re-shot the scene. According to the Telegraph , it is the only major technical change in the film’s re-release.


New algorithms could enable heaps of ‘smart sand’ that can assume any shape, allowing spontaneous formation of new tools or duplication of broken mechanical parts.

Imagine that you have a big box of sand in which you bury a tiny model of a footstool. A few seconds later, you reach into the…

science is awesome

(via abaldwin360-deactivated20130708)


Neanderthals Were Dying Out Before Humans Arrived

Neanderthals in Western Europe started disappearing long before Homo sapiens showed up, suggesting that cold weather, and not cold-hearted humans, might have been responsible for the species’ ultimate demise.

The findings, published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, suggest that at least one population of Neanderthals was vulnerable to climate change.

Love Dalén, lead author of the paper, told Discovery News that “even if the Neanderthals were capable of surviving periods of extreme cold, the game species they relied on likely could not, so their resource base would have been severely depleted.”

Neanderthals appear to have favored hunting wooly mammoths and other big game. Neanderthals were also big-brained, with the ability to make stone tools, construct garments, control fire and find shelter.

keep reading


Neil Degrasse Tyson for Science Czar!

He may be our only hope to slow the “Chicken Little”ing of society.

(via whiskerbiscuitbakery)



People around the world have reported hearing strange sounds from the skies over the past month. Sometimes they describe it as a hum or low rumble; other times it’s a whine, thump, or even a melody. Often the sounds have been recorded and posted online,…

(via glittertitties-deactivated20130)


42,000 year old Neanderthal cave paintings oldest found yet

The world’s oldest works of art have been found in a cave on Spain’s Costa del Sol, scientists believe.

Six paintings of seals are at least 42,000 years old and are the only known artistic images created by Neanderthal man, experts claim.

Professor Jose Luis Sanchidrian, from the University of Cordoba, described the discovery as ‘an academic bombshell’, as all previous art work has been attributed to Homo sapiens.

(via thehackerformerlyknownas4chan)

Mars Crater Filled with Ice 

Does it never fail to blow your mind that we have hi-res photos of the surface of ANOTHER FUCKING PLANET. We actually shot spacecraft all the way there with cameras attached and transmitted the images all the way back here. Holy shit.

I know we’ve had them since the Viking landers but even then I find myself just staring at the photos, even the old grainy ones. Yeah the moon was cool, but it just doesn’t feel so…far.

Don’t even get me started on the rovers. We are DRIVING REMOTE CONTROLLED CARS ON ANOTHER PLANET! Honestly, it’s been years and the wonder is still there for me.




Motion After-effect Optical Illusion

So I’ve noticed that under the #gif tag there is this ‘dopey’ optical illusion. The comment below it says:

Stare into the middle of this for 45 seconds, (look around) and you will feel the effects of LSD.


That’s cool, but you know what is even cooler? The science behind it! (you are now aware of the fact that there is a science behind these things).

AWESOME! So… how does it work?

The thing is called motion after-effect and it can be explained in terms of “fatigue” of the neurons encoding one motion direction. Neurons coding a particular movement reduce their responses with time of exposure to a constantly moving object, causing a neural adaptation.

Another example ot this effect is known as the waterfall illusion. If you will look at a waterfall for about a minute and then look at the stationary rocks at the side of the waterfall, these rocks will appear to be moving upwards slightly.

One theory is that perception of stationary objects, for example rocks beside a waterfall, is coded as the balance among the baseline responses of neurons coding all possible directions of motion. Neural adaptation of neurons stimulated by downwards movement reduces their baseline activity, tilting the balance in favor of upwards movement.

One point for science!

More at my Optical Illusions Explained page.

I love these things

Similar effect can bee seen after playing Rock Band or Guitar Hero and then looking around. WOAH…WAVES!

A trip down memory lane-@lilykily

(via lilykily)