Saturday, January 14, 2012

Science Saturday 2.2: Twin Suns, Gerp's Mouse Lemur, Prions, & More

If you have never watched a TED talk, you are missing out on some of the most thought-provoking and innovative ideas in the world of technology, entertainment, and design.  The following video does not disappoint.  As a visual learner, I often scribble things out onto my giant whiteboard when trying to understand a particular biological concept or pathway.  I love looking at images in my textbook.  Drew Berry takes the scientific understanding of biological processes one step further and animates them in a visually stunning and accurate representation of what is going in on your body at the cellular level.

Last September, science fiction and science collided when Kepler-16b was discovered to orbit a binary star system and was lovingly nicknamed "Tatooine" after the planet from my favorite sci-fi saga.  Two more twin-sun planets have been discovered and named Kepler-34b and Kepler-35b.  Both planets are only about 5,000 light years away from Earth, and there are thought to be millions more in our galaxy.  Cue John Williams score...

Meet the cutest new primate species out of Madagascar's Sahafina Forest, Microcebus gerpi, or Gerp's mouse lemur.  Though not the smallest mouse lemur species, the discovery of these little guys helps to understand the localized species population response to deforestation. 

Featured microbe: Prions
While most well known diseases are caused by bacteria or viruses, there are also a number of prion related diseases that have hit the news over the past decade.  Prions are infectious proteins which cause abnormal cell membrane proteins to develop, particularly in the brain, leading to transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.  This disease is characterized by plaques or holes in the brain tissue (see image below), causing neurological damage, coma, and death.  The most common prion diseases include mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), scrapies in sheep, and Creutzfeld-Jacob disease in humans.



  1. It is a scary (prion related diseases) and yet extremely amazing universe! (Universes?)

    The Gerp's mouse lemur is adorable...however I probably wouldn't think so if it were running around my house ;-)

    Once again, thank you for the Science Saturday series!

    Lily-Thinking Thoughts

  2. That is so cool and interesting about the twin suns.

    Have you heard about the asteroid that is calculated to hit the earth in 2880? It is being said that it will end life where it hits and several miles surrounding. I don't know any of the technical terms and I can't link a story to you. But I thought that was so interesting.