In the digital age, organizing a photo collection has gone from bad to worse. The saying used to be that a picture is worth a thousand words. Now the question arises: what are a thousand pictures worth?

"Anyone who has a digital camera has the problem that they have more photos than they can possibly navigate," says Steve Seitz, associate professor of computer science & engineering. "And it's always a problem to find the photo that you're looking for."


Photo Tourism places each photo where the photographer would have been standing. Here, one photo of Trevi Fountain in Rome is enlarged, while other photos appear as pyramids.

With an aging population susceptible to stroke, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions, and military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with serious limb injuries, the need for strategies that treat complex neurological impairments has never been greater.

One tack being pursued by neuroscientists and engineers is the development of “smart” neural prostheses. These devices are intended to restore function, through electrical stimulation, to damaged motor neural circuits – the long, slender fibers that conduct neurochemical messages between nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

A newly designed porous membrane, so thin it's invisible edge-on, may revolutionize the way doctors and scientists manipulate objects as small as a molecule.

The 50-atom thick filter can withstand surprisingly high pressures and may be a key to better separation of blood proteins for dialysis patients, speeding ion exchange in fuel cells, creating a new environment for growing neurological stem cells, and purifying air and water in hospitals and clean-rooms at the nanoscopic level.


Membrane sorts molecules by size. Credit: University of Rochester.

In the 1960s, Eric von Hippel, now a professor of management at MIT, was a first-year graduate student in psychology at Berkeley. He had been having a hard time getting in touch with his advisor. One day, in Tolman Hall, he saw his advisor go into his office. This is my chance, he thought. He went into his advisor’s office. No one was there! He realized his advisor must be hiding behind his desk. It would have been too embarrassing to confront him, so he left the office (which might now be my office).

Plants have an immune system that resists infection, yet 10% of the world's agricultural production is lost annually to diseases caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Understanding how disease resistance works may help combat this scourge.

In a new study published online this week in the open-access journal PLoS Biology, Tessa Burch-Smith, Savithramma Dinesh-Kumar, and colleagues show how one aspect of the plant immune system is defined by the gene-for-gene hypothesis: a plant Resistance (R) gene encodes a protein that specifically recognizes and protects against one pathogen or strain of a pathogen carrying a corresponding Avirulence (Avr) gene.

In tobacco and its relatives, the N resistance protein confers resistance to infection by the Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV).

10. Chocolate contains tryptophan, a chemical in the brain that is used to produce the neurotransmitter, serotonin. High levels of serotonin stimulate the secretion of endorphins, and produce feelings of elation.  Serotonin is found in the antidepressant Prozac, and the designer drug “ecstasy” produces its effects by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.  So… antidepressants, illegal drugs, or a Hershey’s bar.  You pick. 

Challenging Nature is the title of my new column here on Scientific Blogging as well as the title of my new book. Since the idea of challenging nature may seem heretical to some, I will provide a brief explanation here of both the rationale for my argument and the opposition it faces. 

The Allen Brain Atlas, a genome-wide map of the mouse brain on the Internet, has been hailed as “Google of the brain.” The atlas now has a companion or the brain’s working molecules, a sort of pop-up book of the proteins, or proteome map, that those genes express.

The protein map is “the first to apply quantitative proteomics to imaging,” said Richard D. Smith, Battelle Fellow at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, who led the mapping effort with Desmond Smith of UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.


Caption: Abundance profiles of four different proteins compiled from 1 millimeter cubes (voxels) in a mouse brain.

Before publishing the first issue of Gene Genie, a blog carnival on genes, I list here the most interesting announcements and findings on genes from the past day.

Submissions are still welcome. It’s going to be the first issue of this project, so I need many many articles to be submitted.

Based on Timothy Erickson’s thoughts, I decided to start a new blog carnival on genes and gene-related diseases. Our plan is to cover the whole genome before 2082 (it means 14-15 genes every two weeks).

Please take a look at the “official” page of the carnival. (Suggestions are most welcome!)