Here a ferrofluid climbs a spiral steel structure sitting on an electromagnet. Magnetic field lines emanating from the sculpture’s edges tend to push the ferrofluid out into long spikes—part of the normal field instability—but surface tension resists. The short, somewhat squat spikes we see are the balance struck between these opposing forces. Though known for their wild appearance, ferrofluids appear many in common applications, including hard drives, speakers, and MRI contrast agents. Researchers have also recently suggested they might help understand the behavior of the multiverse. (Photo credit: P. Davis et al.)
Ferrofluids will never stop fascinating me.
What Makes Cancer Cells Different?
We’ve talked before about how tricky a disease cancer is. Or, if you want to be accurate, how tricky a “set of diseases” it is. I mean, a single tumor is like a world unto itself, full of different populations of cells, each with their own individual set of mutations. That’s crazy to think about.
Cancer is the result of one of our cells’ most basic and core functions, cell division, gone awry. What causes it, in the large sense? How can we use cancer’s tricks against it to try and treat these diseases?
George Zaidan tackles those questions for TED-Ed in the video above. If nothing else, it’s the best combination of beans, fabric and cancer biology I’ve ever seen in a video. Goes nicely with my TED-Ed video on how the human genome is organized in the first place.
The Next Marine Police
A large yellow fish is currently swimming the waters of Gijon harbour in northern Spain, but it’s no ordinary fish—instead of flesh and scales, it’s made of metal and carbon fibre. 1.5 metres long and inspired by the swimming motion and the hydrodynamic shape of real fish, this prototype robo-fish is science’s latest weapon against pollution: It’s built to monitor oxygen levels and salinity, as well as use interchangeable micro-electrode arrays to detect harmful chemicals and heavy metals like lead and copper. Current pollutant monitoring techniques are time consuming, because samples must be collected by divers and then sent to a lab for testing, so harbours and ports are usually only tested monthly—and by the time a harmful chemical is detected, the offending ship is long gone and the water is contaminated. But these autonomous robo-fish are much more efficient, able to communicate with each other via acoustic signals and feed information back to shore in real-time, so pollution can detected and culprits can be apprehended immediately. The robo-fish prototypes are being developed as part of the Shoal Consortium project, and although at the moment the fish have a limited battery life and each one costs US$32,000, if the prototype is successful then these problems can be overcome. Hopefully, they will eventually patrol and protect coastal waters around the world.
A starry view from a forest of giant Sequoia trees in the Yosemite National park, California. Sequoias are among the largest and tallest trees on Earth.
They grow to an average height of 50-85 m and 6-8 m in diameter. Record trees have been measured to be about 95 m (311 ft) in height and 17 m (57 ft) in diameter. The oldest known Giant Sequoia is 3500 years old and many of the largest are over 2000 years old. — Babak Tafreshi