Tag Archives: pictures

Closeup of a bee's amazing eyes. Credit: Flickr, USGS Bee Inventory.

How bees might help smartphone cameras snap more natural-looking photos

Most cameras, whether their embedded into your phone or drone for that matter, are crap when it comes to rendering colors as vibrantly as the human eye does. One team of researchers, however, argues that we would take far better vacation photos if cameras were built more like a bee’s eye.

Closeup of a bee's amazing eyes. Credit: Flickr, USGS Bee Inventory.

Closeup of a bee’s amazing eyes. Credit: Flickr, USGS Bee Inventory.

The problem with modern commercial cameras is color constancy. That is, the ability to identify and distinguish color in any variation of light. It’s what helps us humans identify objects even in dim light. For instance, we know that a banana is yellow even though it’s sitting in a basket in the low light just before dawn. You look at the banana and you know it’s yellow but if you look at a picture of the banana taken in the same light that’s another thing.

“For a digital system like a camera or a robot the colour of objects often changes. Currently this problem is dealt with by assuming the world is, on average, grey,” said Adrian Dyer, an Associate Professor at RMIT.

“This means it’s difficult to identify the true colour of ripe fruit or mineral rich sands, limiting outdoor colour imaging solutions by drones, for example.”

It’s not just people that have good color constancy, bees do too. What’s more, they have five eyes, two of which are dedicated to sensing color which is mighty useful when foraging flowers is concerned. The other three eyes are not as specialized but can still sense color through receptors called oceli, which focus on the color of light. These oceli are always pointed to the sky.

Australian researchers at RMIT University, Melbourne, think it’s these oceli that relay information on light to the right parts of the brain responsible for processing color. This is to ensure the bee knows what’s it doing and approaches the right flower, unlike a camera which can be pick up the wrong colors.

For this to happen, information from the ocelli would have to be integrated with colors seen by the compound eyes. Indeed, this seems to happen after the researchers mapped the neural tracings from ocelli and showed neural projections fed into the processing areas of the bee brain. “It is rare that physics, biology, neuro-anatomy and ecology all fit together, but here we have it,” said Professor Andrew Greentree from the ARC Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics at RMIT, in a statement.

This discovery on color constancy could be implemented into imaging systems to enable accurate color interpretation. One day, we might all take better, sweeter pictures. And it’s thanks to bees.

The findings appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 


Juno captures the closest-ever pictures of Jupiter we’ve seen — and its hair-raising voice

NASA has just shared the data from Juno’s flyby of Jupiter last week, containing the most detailed images of the gas giant that humans have ever seen. The new information surprised even the specialists who didn’t expect how unique the largest planet in the Solar System would prove to be up-close.

The Romans never regarded Jupiter as a merciful god. This infrared picture of the giant’s southern aurora certainly doesn’t seem to contradict them.
Image credits NASA / JPL-Caltech.

Following a five-year journey through space, the Juno probe entered Jupiter’s orbit in July. Last week, it got closer to the planet than any other spacecraft in history and managed to take some breathtaking snaps of the giant. It took NASA one and a half days to download the treasure trove of images from this historical six-hour flyby. The pictures revealed previously unseen storm and weather systems, and Jupiter’s never-before-seen north pole.

“[We got our] first glimpse of Jupiter’s north pole, and it looks like nothing we have seen or imagined before,” says principal investigator of the Juno mission Scott Bolton, from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

“It’s bluer in colour up there than other parts of the planet, and there are a lot of storms.”

Far from the orderly striped appearance of Jupiter’s midsection, the north pole is a swirling mass of roiling hurricane-like storms.

Jupiter’s northern pole.
Image credits NASA / JPL-Caltech.

“There is no sign of the latitudinal bands or zone and belts that we are used to – this image is hardly recognisable as Jupiter,” says Bolton. “We’re seeing signs that the clouds have shadows, possibly indicating that the clouds are at a higher altitude than other features.”

One thing scientists expected to see but didn’t is a hexagonal formation over the north pole, a structure which other Solar System gas giants — such as Saturn — have.

“Saturn has a hexagon at the north pole,” says Bolton. “There is nothing on Jupiter that anywhere near resembles that. The largest planet in our Solar System is truly unique.”

Along with the images of the north pole, the Juno team used an infrared device – the Italian Space Agency’s Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) – to analyse Jupiter’s polar regions in infrared wavelengths. This revealed warm and hot spots all over the giant’s polar regions and also gave us our first glimpse of the planet’s southern aurora.

“JIRAM is getting under Jupiter’s skin, giving us our first infrared close-ups of the planet,” says researcher Alberto Adriani from the Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali in Rome. “And while we knew that the first ever infrared views of Jupiter’s south pole could reveal the planet’s southern aurora, we were amazed to see it for the first time.”

During the flyby, Juno passed about 4,200 kilometres (2,600 miles) above Jupiter’s clouds and it activated all eight of its onboard data collection instruments. One of these, the Radio/Plasma Wave Experiment instrument (Waves), recorded radio emissions thought to be produced by Jupiter’s auroras.

By converting these signals into an audio frequency, NASA put together a recording of the rest of Jupiter’s “voice” — and it will make the hairs stand on the back of your head.

“Jupiter is talking to us in a way only gas-giant worlds can,” says Waves co-investigator Bill Kurth from the University of Iowa.

“Waves detected the signature emissions of the energetic particles that generate the massive auroras which encircle Jupiter’s north pole. These emissions are the strongest in the Solar System. Now we are going to try to figure out where the electrons come from that are generating them.”

NASA researchers have only now begun analysing the data from the probe’s first sweep of the planet, but with 35 more orbital flybys yet to come, one thing’s for sure: Juno’s only just started spilling Jupiter’s secrets.

“It’s going to be a flood,” Juno project scientist Steve Levin from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory told Amina Khan at the Los Angeles Times. “Like drinking from a fire hose.”

Celebrating life one awesome picture at a time: the Welcome Image Awards 2016

Medical research charity Welcome Trust has been bringing together some of the most spectacular images in biomedical research under their yearly Welcome Image Awards. They aim to “recognise the creators of the most informative, striking and technically excellent images that communicate significant aspects of biomedical science.” And the submissions certainly are all of those things — combing trough the entries of this 19-edition long contest, I can’t help but be slack-jawed in amazement at how beautiful life is.

This year is no different. Capturing images from the very tiny all the way to a heart as big as your head, the entries are a veritable celebration of life. So here are some highlights of this year’s winner’s gallery — sit back, and enjoy.

Our thanks to the Welcome Image Awards team for providing the pictures.

Cryogenic scanning electron micrograph of a single human stem cell. Image credits Sílvia A Ferreira, Cristina Lopo, Eileen Gentleman / King’s College London.

Cryogenic scanning electron micrograph of a single human stem cell. It’s roughly 0.015 mm.
Image credits Sílvia A Ferreira, Cristina Lopo, Eileen Gentleman / King’s College London.

Stem cells are yet undifferentiated cells that can divide to produce almost any cells found in the human body. This particular cell was harvested from the hip bone of a healthy patient, who donated bone marrow to help those experiencing complications after receiving a transplant.

The cell is resting in a chemical mixture that mimics its natural environment inside the body so that the team can observe how it behaves in-vivo. To take the shot, researchers flash-froze the sample, then put it under an electron microscope.

Also, it kind of looks like an exploding star doesn’t it?

Maize leaves. Image credits Fernán Federici / Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile / University of Cambridge.

Maize (corn) leaves.
Image credits Fernán Federici / Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile / University of Cambridge.

Maize is one of the most widely grown cereal crops in the world, but not many people have ever seen it like this. The image is approximately 250 micrometres (0.25 mm) wide. It’s up close enough that you can see each individual cell and their nucleus — the green rectangular shapes and orange circles. It was taken in collaboration with Jim Haseloff and OpenPlant Cambridge.

Human liver grafted into a mouse starts growing. Image credits Chelsea Fortin, Kelly Stevens and Sangeeta Bhatia / Koch Institute, © MIT

A small piece of human liver grafted into a mouse with a damaged liver.
Image credits Chelsea Fortin, Kelly Stevens and Sangeeta Bhatia / Koch Institute, © MIT.

Human liver cells (red/orange) and human blood vessels (green) in the new liver have grouped together and started to grow using blood (white) from the mouse to help. Development of blood vessels in organs like the liver has previously been very difficult, which has been a major barrier to scaling up small implants like these for medical use. The liver can regenerate itself but certain types of damage are irreversible, and there is a growing shortage of replacement organs.

Researchers hope that one day, implants like this could be used to repair livers damaged by liver disease, cirrhosis or cancer. The image is 1.1 mm wide.

Swallowtail butterfly. Image credits Daniel Saftner / Macroscopic Solutions.

Close-up shot of a swallowtail butterfly.
Image credits Daniel Saftner / Macroscopic Solutions.

Butterflies have two large compound eyes to see quick movements and a pair of antennae which pick up smells. The proboscis (their long feeding tube) is curled up like a spring here, but it unrolls so the butterfly can use it like a straw to drink nectar from flowers. Swallowtail butterflies are widely distributed around the world and are often found in wetlands such as marshes and fens. They get their name from their characteristic hindwing extensions, which are reminiscent of a swallow’s tail. This image is 5 mm wide.

Cow Heart. Image credits Michael Frank / Royal Veterinary College

Cow Heart.
Image credits Michael Frank / Royal Veterinary College

The heart was preserved in formalin in a Perspex container and was photographed in the Anatomy Museum of the Royal Veterinary College in London. It measures 27 cm from top to bottom and is roughly four times the size of a human heart.

Credit: Macroscopic Solutions. Wellcome Images

Moth scales.
Image credits Mark R Smith / Macroscopic Solutions.

Close-up shot of the scales on a Madagascan sunset moth (Chrysiridia rhipheus). This large colourful moth is most active during the day, unlike most other moths which are nocturnal. It is native to Madagascar and is often mistaken for a butterfly. As it flaps its wings during flight, they shimmer in the light and change colour, but these colours are an illusion. They come from light bouncing off the curved scales at different angles. The wings themselves hardly contain any colour pigment or dye. This image is 750 micrometres (0.75 mm) wide.

Cross section through an ebola virus. Image credits David S Goodsell / RCSB Protein Data Bank.

Cross section through an ebola virus.
Image credits David S Goodsell / RCSB Protein Data Bank.

Ebola was first discovered in mid-1970s Africa but has really found its way into the public’s attention following the tragic outbreaks we’ve seen a few years ago. It can cause severe illness and often proves fatal to the host. This watercolour and ink illustration takes a look inside an Ebola virus particle.

The pink/purple membrane surrounding it is stolen from an infected cell. The broccoli-like turquoise proteins on the membrane attach to the cells that the virus infects. A layer of proteins (blue) supports the membrane on the inside. Genetic information in the form of RNA (yellow) is stored in a cylinder called a nucleocapsid (green) in the centre of the virus. This whole virus is approximately 100 nanometres (0.0001 mm) wide, which is 200 times smaller than many of the cells that it infects.

This picture was selected as the overall winner of this year’s contest.

Clathrin cage. Image credits Maria Voigt / RCSB Protein Data Bank.

Clathrin cage.
Image credits Maria Voigt / RCSB Protein Data Bank.

These little babies are the cell’s forklifts — they’re cage-like structures made from the protein clathrin around small membrane sacs. They bring molecules into the cell and transport them from place to place as they’re being used. They’re also responsible for sorting through all the cargo, making sure each substance is taken where it’s needed. Certain toxins and germs can hijack these cages to attack cells.

When not carrying stuff or acting like unwilling trojan horses, the cages break up — each building block of the cage is a triskelion, a pattern of three bent legs (dark blue) joined together with three short rods (light blue.)

This digital illustration was created using scientific data about the sequence, shape, size and fit of these building blocks and how they assemble into cages. Cages can form in different sizes, usually less than 200 nanometres (0.0002 mm) across. This particular cage is approximately 50 nanometres (0.00005 mm) across.



Nature presents: The 2012 Veolia Environement Wildlife Photographer of the Year


The Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition opens on October 19 – with images ranging from pole to pole, but still have one thing in common: quality. You can click all the pics for full resolution, but be warned – a couple of them are quite disturbing.

This deer is undisturbed by the traffic in Jasper National Park, Canada. ‘Life in the border zone’ by Vladimir Medvedev.

No, you’re not looking at a polar bear wandering off into the woods, but this is in fact a variant of the black bear (Ursus americanus) known as a Kermode bear. This guy is just chowing down on some salmon in the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada. The picture is called ‘Spirit of the forest’ by Paul Nicklen.


Brilliant Very Large Telescope image captures the tumult of a starbirth

The process of starbirth is a beautiful yet violent one; newborn stars spew material into the surrounding gas, creating surreal photos, often with glowing bulbs, arcs or streaks. This kind of picture is always spectacular, and ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) managed to catch quite a few of them on camera, delighting astronomers and the general public as well. This new image, released today, was taken in NGC 6729, a nearby star-forming region in the constellation Corona Australis.

This area is a stellar nursery, one of the ones which are closest to us, and therefore one of the most studied. This image was selected from the ESO archive by Sergey Stepanenko, as part of the Hidden Treasures competition. The 2010 competition gave amateur astronomers the opportunity to search through ESO’s archives in the hope that a few gems that need polishing would be found, and Stepanenko’s picture rated third, as Igor Chelakin claimed both the first and second prize, with some absolutely stunning pictures (here and here).

The first stages of star development cannot be observed in visible light telescopes, because they eject so much dust, but although you cannot see them, you can see the havoc they wreaked.

In this picture, you can easily see the Herbig Haro objects showcasing the two probable lines of material ejection. The different colours reflect different star forming conditions, for example glowing hydrogen is orange, ionized sulphur is blue, and understanding the processes that led to this image can help astronomers unravel what is happening in this hectic part of space.

Pictures via ESO

The best science pictures of 2010

With each passing year, science is becoming more and more visual,  and the pictures we get to see are more and more spectacular; from horror movie viruses, to nanolandscapes or computer simiulations, these are the winners of the 2010 Science and Engineering Visual Challenge.

The most detailed and advanced model of the HIV virus so far, it summarizes work from areas such as spectroscopy, genetics, virology and X-ray analysis

This is only a portion of AraNet, a gene association network from a plant that was built from over 50 million experimental observations. Each line here represents a link between two genes, and the colours represent how "hot" the connection is

This brilliant 3D illustration represents a bacteriophage virus brutally attacking a bacteria, such as E. Coli; after all, that's what bacteriophage do - they infect bacteria and then turn it into a virus factory

A computer generated model of a proposed structure for the yeast mitotic spindle developed during a two year project conducted by computer scientists, cell biologists, artists and physicists

Fungi make great foods, great beverages, and we find more and more uses for them every day. This splash illustrates their variety and how they influence our lives

77.6 billion people born, 969 million people killed - Everyone Ever in the world is a visual representation of the number of people who have lived vs people who have died in wars, massacres and genocides in recorded history.

This blue nanolandscape represents two molecules on a gold layer that form a self assembled layer, thus paving the way for self cleaning surfaces and not only

You would probably never guess it, but this is in fact the seed of a common tomato

Centipede milirobot

Seattle is one of the leading green cities, and they have also been leading a campaign for the smart tagging of garbage

Millions and millions of people use GPS each day, but little do they know that they handy tools rely on Einstein's theory of relativity to do their work...

A novel method to visualize vectors, where magnitude is shown by the color and the size of the glyphs, and the black and white represent the head and the tail of the vector

Solar flare causing some major trouble

As we were telling you recently, the biggest solar flare in the last 4 years is upon us, and while this doesn’t pose any direct danger for us, but the flare is making an impact throughout the world. Radio communications were disrupted, especially in China, but concern was generated everywhere throughout the world.

However, experts say the Sun has just given us a hint of what it can really do, and things could have been much worse; a truly massive storm could wreak havok on a global scale. Speaking of massive storms, the sun has been pretty quiet during this cycle – but that doesn’t necessarily mean a big one is coming just yet. But it doesn’t mean that it’s not coming, either.

“Even if this is a really lackluster solar cycle — as it looks like it’s shaping up to be — that doesn’t mean you can’t have a real bell-ringing event,” said Joe Gurman of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, project scientist for the agency’s sun-studying STEREO spacecraft.

Spectacular photos from the solar eclipse in 2011

Photo by Rhys Jones.

Photo by Rhys Jones.

The first solar eclipse of 2011 was indeed a spectacular one; even though it was only a partial eclipse, the 4th of January was a day to remember – for skygazers and not only.


It was visible over the majority of Europe, as well as northwestern Asia, but it reached it’s most spectacular moment in Sweden, when the axis of the Moon’s shadow passed just 510 km above the Earth’s surface. This solar eclipse was the first one of four predicted partial eclipses to take place in 2011, in June 1, July 1 and November 25.

A truly fascinating picture of the solar eclipse also catches a glimpse of the ISS


Amazing NASA pic shows how galaxies collide

I gotta say, this is one of the most beautiful pictures I’ve seen all year ! This amazing image released by NASA shows a collision betweet two galaxies that began 100 million years ago (when dinosaurs were still kings) and is still happening today. The bright sources you see are in fact produced by huge amounts of material that falls on black holes and neutron stars (remnants of massive stars).

Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/J.DePasquale; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Optical: NASA/STScI

The big picture on Icelandic eruption

Eyjafjallajökull (how ever you pronounce) is a volcano located in Iceland, covered by a small glacier with the same name. It’s crater has a diameter of about 3-4 kilometers, and it erupted the second time this month, causing a cloud of ash that forced authorities to stop almost all flights above Iceland.

The first fissure that opened on Fimmvörðuháls, as seen from Austurgígar. Photo by David Karnå.

The first fissure that opened on Fimmvörðuháls, as seen from Austurgígar. Photo by David Karnå.

The problem, when you have such a volcano, is that the ice on top of it melts, causing massive floods, as well as the usual shooting of smoke and gases. Thousands of people were forced to give up their homes and take cover in the face of the floods. Here we’ll present some of the most suggestive photos from the area, taken over a time span of approximately a month.

Photo by NASA.

Photo by NASA.


Hell’s gate


If a gate to hell existed, I bet this is how it would look like. Locals from the town of Darvaz in Uzbekistan were really inspired when they named it this way.


When looking at the pictures, you’d be tempted to think this is some sort of a volcano or magma-related process, but it’s not. Geologists are actually responsible (they almost always are) for this huge burning hole that’s been lasting for 35 years already (and won’t be stopping in the near future).


So, 35 years ago, they were digging and searching for gas. Then suddenly, they found an underground cavern so wide and deep that caused all their camping and equipment to fall underground.


I can’t imagine this happening this exact way (I mean, where were they when the equipment fell?) but that’s how the story goes, and exaggerations are actually welcome.


Anyway, nobody wanted to go down there because it was filled with poisonous gas, so in order to prevent the gas from getting out, they just decided to… burn it. Gotta hand it to geologists, they always find the best solutions – it’s what I would have done too.

Pictures source

Hubble takes amazing pictures of mammoth stars

Two of the biggest and most impressive stars from our galaxy have been “surprised” in some really amazing poses by the the NASA/ESA Hubble telescope. Until now, a cloud of mystery surrounded them, but these pictures in greater detail than ever before.

The pair of colossal stars (named WR 25 and Tr16-244, located within the open cluster Trumpler 16) are embedded in the Carina cluster; this huge cauldron of dust and gas is located more than 7000 light years. This cluster has some of the hottest and brightest stars around, including the infamous Eta Carinae, the star with the biggest luminosity yet found.

They may seem a single object, but Hubble's smart cam can tell the difference

These stars emit almost all of radiation in ultraviolet and thus appearing blue to the naked eye. You can definitely say that they live fast and die young, because of the power they use to burn the hydrogen. WR-25 is the one at the center of the top picture, is the brightest of the three. The runner up is the one at the left of the image. They have a special interest for astronomers due to the fact that they’re very rare compared to other stars and they are associated with star forming nebulae, giving important details about ow galaxies formed and evolved.

For example, the two brightest stars are probably the reason why a giant gas nebula from the Carina cluster is slowly evaporating into the stars, due to their very powerful radiation. This radiation is probably also responsable for the curious shape the globe has, similar to a hand holding a finger that suggests rebelion.

Cities as seen from space, at night


Recently, the NASA observatory published some great images of some cities. For a man looking at those cities at night, man’s work seems both impressive and insignificant. But the view would be fantastic: regular patterns of irrigated cropland, straight lines of roads and railways running across continents, reservoirs on river systems, and the cement rectangles of ports and seawalls along coastlines.But nothing would be as gorgeous as the cities. During the day, it’s not really spectacular: gray smudges is pretty much all you get. However at night… things change a bit. The lights pinpoint how humanity have changed the environment to make it adapt to his own needs.



If anything rocks about being an astronaut, it’s being able to see the earth at night: from 350-400 kilometers above the surface you get to see the magnificent display of lights and patterns.


But taking pictures in the dark is difficult at best, made even more difficult by the fact that the International Space Station moves more than 7 kilometers per second (15,659 miles per hour) relative to Earth’s surface. Still, hopefully you From a geographic perspective, cities at night tell different stories about a region. They took way more pictures than we’ve shown here. You can check them all out here. 


Two pictures show the progress of technology – first and finest picture of Earth




Our life may be better or worse, our health may be better or worse, but one thing has definitely improved over the past decades: technology; and that’s a really big thing.

So what better way to prove the progress of technology than 2 pictures of Earth? The first was taken from the weather satellite TIROS-1, on April 1, 1960 (no, no joke). These early pictures had a great importance for meteorologists which had more information about how cloud systems were formed and they were especially interested in spiral formations associated with large storms. Also, it wasn’t until this picture that pretty much everybody was convinced that the Earth was round.

The photo from the right was taken by the space shuttle Discovery’s robotic arm during the STS-77 mission in 1996, and shows Earth laid out in splendor beneath the bright sun. Hopefully people will look at these pictures and be reminded that the Earth is interconnected and that life in its greatness must be respected and loved.

So now one can only wonder how will a picture from Earth look like 50 years from now? What do you think? Or perhaps we’ll be taking pictures of other planets? Who knows… we can just stick around and find out.

Thanks to space.com for this.

6 deadliest volcano eruptions

Volcanic eruptions are impressive natural phenomena; it begins when pressure on a magma chamber forces magma up through the conduit and out the volcano’s vents. Seen on the TV or in the newspaper, they’re just fantastic and gorgeous. But if you’re unlucky enough to be there… it’s really deadly. But volcanic ash can also bring a new beginning, aiding nature to grow even bigger and stronger than before. But the lives lost are forever gone. Here’s a sum of the world’s 6 deadliest volcano eruptions, in terms of human live loss – for both direct and indirect causes.

6. Laki, Iceland; year: 1783; 9,350 deaths, caused mostly by starvation


5. Unzen, Japan; year: 1792; 14,300 deaths, caused mostly by the volcano collapsing.


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