Category: science

Visualized: The Many Shapes of Bacteria


This post is by Mark Belan from Visual Capitalist


Infographic illustrating the visual diversity of bacteria

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Invisible Diversity: The Many Shapes of Bacteria

Bacteria are amazing.

They were the first form of life to appear on Earth almost 3.8 billion years ago.

They make up the second most abundant lifeform, only outweighed by plants.

And most interesting of all: they exist in practically every environment on our planet, including areas where no other lifeforms can survive. As a result, bacteria exhibit a wide variety of appearances, behaviors, and applications similar to the lifeforms we see in our everyday lives.

The incredible diversity of bacteria goes underappreciated simply because they are invisible to the naked eye. Here, we illustrate how researchers classify these creatures on the basis of appearance, giving you a glimpse into this microscopic world.

A Life of Culture

Though bacteria may look similar to other microorganisms like fungi or plankton, they are entirely unique on a microscopic and genetic level.

Bacteria make up one of the three main domains of life. All life shares its earliest ancestor with this group of microbes, alongside two other domains: the Archaea (Read more...)

Visualizing the Evolution of Vision and the Eye


This post is by Mark Belan from Visual Capitalist


View the high-resolution version of this graphic.

Infographic illustrating the development of the eye

Roadmapping the Evolution of the Eye

Throughout history, numerous creatures have evolved increasingly complex eyes in response to different selective pressures.

Not all organisms, however, experience the same pressures. It’s why some creatures today still have eyes that are quite simple, or why some have no eyes at all. These organisms exemplify eyes that are “frozen” in time. They provide snapshots of the past, or “checkpoints” of how the eye has transformed throughout its evolutionary journey.

Scientists study the genes, anatomy, and vision of these creatures to figure out a roadmap of how the eye came to be. And so, we put together an evolutionary graphic timeline of the eye’s different stages using several candidate species.

Let’s take a look at how the eye has formed throughout time.

Where Vision Comes From

The retina is a layer of nerve tissue, often at the back of the eye, that is sensitive to light.

When light hits it, specialized cells called photoreceptors transform light energy into electrical signals and send them to the brain. Then the brain processes these electrical signals into images, creating vision.

The earliest form of vision arose in unicellular organisms. Containing simple nerve cells that can only distinguish light from dark, they are the most common eye in existence today.

The ability to detect shapes, direction, and color comes from all of the add-ons evolution introduces to these cells.

Two Major Types of Eyes

Two major eye types (Read more...)

Visualizing the Composition of Blood


This post is by Mark Belan from Visual Capitalist


composition of blood

The Composition of Blood

Have you ever wondered what blood is made up of?

With the average adult possessing five to six liters of blood in the body, this fluid is vital to our lives, circulating oxygen through the body and serving many different functions.

Despite its simple, deep-red appearance, blood is comprised of many tiny chemical components. This infographic visualizes the composition of blood and the microscopic contents in it.

What is Blood Made Up Of?

There are two main components that comprise blood:

  • Plasma – 55%
    Plasma is the fluid or aqueous part of blood, making up more than half of blood content.
  • Formed elements – 45%
    Formed elements refer to the cells, platelets, and cell fragments that are suspended in the plasma.

Plasma

Plasma is primarily made up of water (91%), salts, and enzymes, but it also carries important proteins and components that serve many bodily functions.

Plasma proteins make up 7% of plasma contents and are created in the liver. These include:

  • Albumins
    These proteins keep fluids from leaking out of blood vessels into other parts of the body. They also transport important molecules like calcium and help neutralize toxins.
  • Globulins
    These play an important role in clotting blood and fighting infections and are also transporters of hormones, minerals, and fats.
  • Fibrinogen and Prothrombin
    Both of these proteins help stop bleeding by facilitating the creation of blood clots during wound-healing.

Water and proteins make up 98% of plasma in blood. The other 2% is made up (Read more...)

Reimagining Surrogacy with Dr. Brian Levine of Nodal


This post is by MPD from @MPD - Medium


On today’s episode I chat with Dr. Brian Levine, the Founder and CEO of Nodal.

Nodal is a marketplace that matches surrogates with families that want to have children. Their mission is to significantly reduce the time and cost required to secure a surrogate by cutting out the middlemen who currently control the market. If they succeed, they will help more families have children.

There’s a lot of nuance in this market. We discuss stigmas, the impact of Roe v Wade being overturned and challenges caused by profiteering in the overall healthcare system. If you’re interested in healthcare, this is a great one for you. Enjoy.

Listen via your preferred platform here.

Show Links:


Reimagining Surrogacy with Dr. Brian Levine of Nodal was originally published in @MPD on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Animated Map: Where to Find Water on Mars


This post is by Mark Belan from Visual Capitalist


Animation: New Water Map of Mars

The hunt for water on Mars has always been a point of interest for researchers.

Earth has life almost everywhere water exists. Water is an ideal target for finding lifeforms, like microbes, that may exist on other planets.

And if Mars is to become a future home, knowing where water exists will be necessary for our survival.

Both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have special instruments searching for water on the red planet. After 10 years of in-depth investigation, their latest findings suggest a new “water map” for Mars.

Where Did the Water Go?

Many people know Mars as a dry and dusty planet, but it hasn’t always been that way.

Approximately 4.1 to 3.8 billion years ago, Mars had a massive ocean called Oceanus Borealis. It dominated the northern hemisphere of the planet. Specific planetary conditions at that time let water exist on its surface. Changes in temperature, climate, and geology over the years gradually pushed water out to the atmosphere or into the ground.

Up to 99% of this ocean water is trapped within the planet’s crust, locked within special rocks called hydrous minerals.

Hydrous Minerals

Hydrous minerals are essentially rocks that have water (or its two main elements, hydrogen and oxygen), incorporated into their chemical structure.

There are four main classes of hydrous minerals: silicates, sulfates, silicas, and carbonates. While these minerals look pretty similar to the naked eye, their chemical compositions and structural arrangements vary. They (Read more...)

Explainer: The Basics of DNA and Genetic Systems


This post is by Carmen Ang from Visual Capitalist


Explainer of DNA and Genetic Systems

Explainer: The Basics of DNA and Genetic Systems

While there is great diversity among living things, we all have one thing in common—we all rely on a genetic system made up of DNA and/or RNA.

But how do genetic systems work, and to what extent do they vary across species?

This graphic by Anne-Lise Paris explores the basics of DNA and genetic systems, including how they’re structured, and how they differ across species.

Composition of Genetic Systems: DNA and RNA

A genetic system is essentially a set of instructions that dictate our genetic makeup—what we look like and how we interact with our environment.

This set of instructions is stored in nucleic acids, the two main types being deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA).

While most living things rely on a mix of DNA and RNA for cellular reproduction, some viruses just use RNA to store their genetic information and replicate faster.

DNA is made up of four molecules, known as nucleotides: Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Cytosine ( C), and Guanine (G). These nucleotides are grouped in sets of two, which are called base pairs.

Size of Genomes Across Different Organisms

Human DNA is made up of approximately 3.2 billion base pairs that are tightly wound up and stored in our cells. If you were to unwind and measure the DNA stored in a single human cell, it would be about 2 meters (6.5 feet) long!

This lengthy DNA is stored in pairs of chromosomes. (Read more...)

Explainer: The Different Types of Volcanoes on Earth


This post is by Carmen Ang from Visual Capitalist


Click to view a larger version of the graphic.

Infographic explaining how volcanoes are formed and different types

Explainer: The Different Types of Volcanoes on Earth

Even if you don’t live near a volcano, you’ve been impacted by their activity.

It’s estimated that more than 80% of our planet’s surface has been shaped by volcanic activity. They’ve helped create our mountain ranges, plains, and plateaus, and have even helped fertilize the land that we now use to grow crops.

These critical mounds come in many shapes and sizes. This graphic by Giulia De Amicis provides a brief introduction to volcanoes, explaining their different types of shapes and eruptions.

Types of Eruptions

A volcano starts to form when molten rock rises from a crack in the Earth’s surface, which often emerge along tectonic plate boundaries.

Magma rises to the Earth’s surface because it’s lighter than rock. When it surfaces or erupts, it’s referred to as lava.

There are various types of volcanic eruptions, depending on the lava’s temperature, thickness, and composition. Generally speaking, high gas content and high ​​viscosity lead to explosive eruptions, while low viscosity and gas content lead to an effusive, or steadily flowing, eruption.

The Four Main Types of Volcanoes

Volcanoes vary in size and structure, depending on how they’re formed. Most volcanoes types fall into four main groups:

Shield Volcanoes

Shield volcanoes are built slowly, from low-viscosity lava that spreads far and quick. The lava eventually dries to form a thin, wide sheet, and after repeated eruptions, a mount starts to form.

From the top, these (Read more...)

Should We Bring Extinct Animals Back To Life?



Non-Obvious Story of the Week from Rohit Bhargava

Humanity may be close to having the power to bring back extinct species. They are calling it “de-extinction” and the company behind the effort, Colossal Biosciences, is known for speaking ambitiously about solving the “colossal” problem of extinction by bringing back animals such as the Wooly Mammoth within 5 years. 

Of course, the natural Jurassic Parkian question to ask is whether this type of manipulation of the natural world should even be attempted. The arguments to do it, though, seem concerningly logical. The Tasmanian ecosystem has lacked an apex predator since the Tasmanian Tiger (also called the Tasmanian Wolf) died out. Bringing it back would be a natural way to rebalance the ecosystem – a relevant question particularly this week with the news that the beloved Chinese Dugong is now officially extinct. Unlike the dinosaurs, its extinction could also be attributed to human causes, which offers another reason why bringing it back would simply be a correction in nature.

The challenge, as with most technology dilemmas like this, is not about the science or the logic behind them. Instead, the biggest problem remains that the people and companies with the power to do these things are rarely ethical enough to be trusted with the responsibility of doing it. 

All the Contents of the Universe, in One Graphic


This post is by Mark Belan from Visual Capitalist


Infographic showing the composition of the universe

Can I share this graphic?
Yes. Visualizations are free to share and post in their original form across the web—even for publishers. Please link back to this page and attribute Visual Capitalist.
When do I need a license?
Licenses are required for some commercial uses, translations, or layout modifications. You can even whitelabel our visualizations. Explore your options.
Interested in this piece?
Click here to license this visualization.

All the Contents of the Universe, in One Graphic

Scientists agree that the universe consists of three distinct parts: everyday visible (or measurable) matter, and two theoretical components called dark matter and dark energy.

These last two are theoretical because they have yet to be directly measured—but even without a full understanding of these mysterious pieces to the puzzle, scientists can infer that the universe’s composition can be broken down as follows:

ComponentValue    
Dark energy68%
Dark matter27%
Free hydrogen and helium4%
Stars0.5%
Neutrinos0.3%
Heavy elements0.03%

Let’s look at each component in more detail.

Dark Energy

Dark energy is the theoretical substance that counteracts gravity and causes the rapid expansion of the universe. It is the largest part of the universe’s composition, permeating every corner of the cosmos and dictating how it behaves and how it will eventually end.

Dark Matter

Dark matter, on the other hand, has a restrictive force that works closely alongside gravity. It is a sort of “cosmic cement” responsible for (Read more...)

A Scientist’s Joke Goes Horribly Wrong When People Take Him Seriously



Every week I see new amazing images of space coming from NASA’s James Webb telescope. This week I saw this photo French physicist Étienne Klein tweeted, saying it was of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Sun. Later, he admitted the photo was actually a slice of chorizo photographed up close. His motivation for sharing the image was to try and warn internet users about fake news, writing that “no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth.” Many were not amused, saying that his profile and status made this less of a criticism of fake news, and more of an “abuse of power” and case study on how misinformation can start.

In a time when the transmission of misinformation is powerfully fast (as analysis of how quickly this Kardashian tweet with a typo spread proved), choosing to do it with intention struck many people as an ill-timed and badly executed prank from someone who should have known better. I’m not sure I agree. After all, just because a piece of information comes from a “credible” source, we don’t live in a world where any media source should be trusted blindly–no matter how credible they seem. If nothing else, at least Klein’s galactic chorizo reminded everyone of this unfortunate truth.