Find your favorite flora and fauna

The Encyclopedia of Life, No Bookshelf Required – New York Times

It sounds surreal, and yet scientists are writing the Book of All Species. Or to be more precise, they are building a Web site called the Encyclopedia of Life ( On Thursday its authors, an international team of scientists, will introduce the first 30,000 pages, and within a decade, they predict, they will have the other 1.77 million.

Definitely the most impressive thing here is the automated populating of the pages using existing databases. What a fantastic idea. Right now, it’s easy to find information for a few model organisms that have large scientific followings but this kind of wikipedia of all organisms is long overdue. Here’s a link to the EOL website.

Emotiv gaming headset

We’ve certainly come a long way. (And I never knew about Music Portal behind that thing.)

Download MP3It’s hard to judge the merits of this particular interface but I’m sure this is just the first of many such devices that we’re about to see (demo starts 2:00):

This is an Emotiv headset. More than the gaming application, I like the idea of using it for IM emoticons.

Anyone know if the consumer version will require gel for the scalp electrodes? Hmmm… if gamers are the target audience, I think I have a good idea for a cross-promotional opportunity here.

Real-time STED to visualize vesicle dynamics

Video-Rate Far-Field Optical Nanoscopy Dissects Synaptic Vesicle Movement

Just the optical engineering alone here deserves mention: 28 frames per second at 62nm resolution (well below the diffraction limit of 260nm for light of the wavelength used)! STED (or stimulated emission depletion, developed in Stefan Hell’s group) is ideal for visualizing synaptic vesicles, whose small size (~50nm) has typically confined them to the domain of electron microscopists. The ability to get high-speed STED allowed the researchers to track individual vesicles and their path dynamics. They conclude that vesicle movement has both motor-driven and diffusive components (ie. a biased random walk). I’m sure with more time and more analysis there will be a lot of interesting applications for this kind of real-time vesicle tracking. Perhaps in the near future we will have single vesicle “minis” monitored at multiple sites through microscopy instead of just one or two sites electrophysiologically…

Here’s the resolution difference between STED and confocal for a single vesicle:
Sted vs. confocal vesicle picture

And, for those of you with ~$1.25M lying around, you can now purchase a STED setup directly from Leica!