Vision

Researchers writihg in Proceedings of the Royal Society B say they have made a discovery in understanding the origins of human vision.  They say they have determined which genetic 'gateway,' or ion channel, in the hydra is involved in light sensitivity.  Hydra are simple animals that, along with jellyfish, belong to the phylum cnidaria. Cnidarians first emerged 600 million years ago.

Complex traits with components of individual evolutionary histories are always more difficult to understand but a gene called opsin is present in vision among vertebrate animals and is responsible for a different way of seeing than that of animals like flies. The vision of insects emerged later than the visual machinery found in hydra and vertebrate animals.
I really like this optical illusion made by Japanese artist Hajime Ouchi. It's just so simple - just black and white rectangles - and yet has the illusion of both movement and depth. Reminds me a little of some Vasarely images but his were mainly warped spaces - more optical-candy rather than optical-high!

Migraine sufferers have long complained about how their headaches worsen with bright light, and in case you ever doubted their complaints, Rami Burstein and other researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah recently made a giant step in understanding the light-to-headache mechanism in Nature Neuroscience. They found neurons in the rat thalamus sensitive to both light and to the dura (the membrane surrounding the brain).
Other people have an accent, but not me. And this is not just because I have no accent. I wouldn’t have an accent even if I had one!

Accent is a strange thing (as is my reasoning style). No matter the accent you get stuck with – southern, New Yorker, or my valley girl rendition – you feel as if it is the other accents that sound accented to you. Your own accent sounds, well, unaccented, like vanilla, corn flakes, or white bread. Arguments about which person “has an accent” don’t tend to be productive; just a lot of pointing and reiterating the pearl, “No, you’re the one with the accent.”
It’s nearing the end of American football season, with the Super Bowl fast approaching. These games involve displays of tremendous strength, agility and heart. What you may not have known is that some of the most talented players out on the field are doing it all with their eyes closed.   Literally.    The American football player Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals made news last year when photographers captured him catching the ball with his eyes closed. He apparently does this all the time. And it is not just Fitzgerald who does this: after just five minutes searching online I found evidence that acclaimed college wide receiver Austin Pettis of Boise State, this year’s Fiesta Bowl Champion’s, closes his eyes when catching, as seen in the photo here.
How does an outfielder get to the right place at the right time to catch a fly ball? According to a recent article in the Journal of Vision, the "outfielder problem" represents the definitive question of visual-motor control. How does the brain use visual information to guide action?

To test three theories that might explain an outfielder's ability to catch a fly ball, researchers programmed Brown University's virtual reality lab, the VENLab, to produce realistic balls and simulate catches. The team then lobbed virtual fly balls to a dozen experienced ball players.
Surgeons from UC Davis Medical Center say they have demonstrated that artificial muscles can restore the ability of patients with facial paralysis to blink, a development that could potentially  prevent corneal ulcers and the blindness that usually follows. Detailed in the January-February issue of the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, the development could benefit the thousands of people each year who no longer are able to close their eyelids due to combat-related injuries, stroke, nerve injury or facial surgery.

In addition, the technique, which uses a combination of electrode leads and silicon polymers, could be used to develop synthetic muscles to control other parts of the body. The new
Later this evening I’ll be giving a talk to a group of astronomers on what its like to see like an alien. The beauty of this is that I can speculate until the cows come home without fear of any counterexamples being brought to my attention. And even if an alien were to be among the audience members and were to loudly object that he sees differently than I claim, I can always just say that the jury is out until we get more data, and then advise him not to let the door slam into his proboscis on the way out. 

Although it may seem wild-eyed to discuss the eyes of aliens, if we understand why our vision is as it is, then we may be able to intelligently guess whether aliens will have vision like ours. 
Dear Hugh Hefner:

Ever wondered  why you’re rich?   Yes, yes, you’re a savvy businessman who succeeded where thousands have failed.   But there are deeper reasons underlying why your business model works at all. When one digs deeply enough one finds that color – yup, the stuff of rainbows and Crayola – is at the core of your success. Without hue, there’d be no Hugh.
Individuals use a variety of cues to identify their own kin and humans can also detect resemblances in families other than their own, in defiance of 'you all look alike to us' jokes.   A new study says that our success in doing so is the same even if those families are not the same race as ourselves.