I recently deleted all the social media apps from my phone in an attempt to reduce my phone addiction. (Hasn't everyone tried this?) The only one I really missed was Instagram. The platform is by far the most positive and uplifting of the major social media streams. There are also some institutions and artists that post awesome scientific content. Be sure to add these accounts for some educational and inspiring instas.
The official account for the U.S. Department of the Interior provides stunning views of the country's national parks. Many of the photos are from professional nature photographers, including ones whose work has appeared in National Geographic. Others are submitted by park employees and amateur photographers who visit the parks. Prepare to be wowed and add a bunch of national parks to your travel bucket list.
Mike Natter is a medical student and artist living in Philadelphia. His art focuses on the anatomy, health, and disease of the human body. It is beautiful, educational, and often funny. From his feed, it seems like he uses art reinforce concepts he is learning in medical school, which is pretty cool! He also sells prints of his work.
This is probably the nerdiest account on the list... but I promise it is entertaining. Sigma Aldrich posts a molecule of the day, sharing the structure of everything from cancer therapeutics (above) to food ingredients and hormones.
This account posts unaltered photos acquired by the Mars Curiosity, which are available through NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Find out what's happening on Mars, new regional discoveries, and science experiments that NASA is conducting. My only complaint: I wish @marscuriosity posted more frequently!
Michael Peres is a photography professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology who specializes in photos of very small objects. A large proportion of his subjects are scientific in nature-- including the one above (crystals from the medicine bocepriver, a protease inhibitor used to treat hepatitis). He also describes unique methods that he uses to capture challenging images.
Along the same lines, the microscope company Zeiss has an amazing Instagram account. In addition to beautiful microscope images, they occasionally post about new equipment advances. Definitely check it out if you are into that kind of thing!
And these recommendations only scratch the surface. Once you start traveling down the Instagram science rabbit hole, you will find a whole world of amazing science photography. Share some of your favorites in the comments!
What I'm doing, thinking about, watching, and listening to right now
by Megan Sperry
thinking about: graduate student unions
Graduate student unions (or attempts to form them) are making headlines this month. Although many state universities formed graduate student unions in the 1990s (governed by state labor laws), private universities were previously restricted from forming unions by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This restriction was reversed in August 2016 when the NLRB decided that graduate students are classified as ‘statutory employees’. This group includes graduate student teaching assistants and research assistants who are paid by the university. The purpose of such unions is to bargain for wages, benefits, and policies. For example, the University of California graduate student union has taken on issues like class size control for teaching assistants, increased financial assistance for undocumented students, and the installation of gender-neutral bathrooms. So, who is getting involved and where are they at? Here are some examples:
doing: taking in the art of neuroscience
You might remember the BPC article from 2015 that featured Gregg Dunn and Brian Edwards’ work. Well, last year they finished a huge piece, Self Reflection, which now lives in the Franklin Institute. I had the chance to see it this week and it was amazing. The piece is a microetching of the human brain with gold plating and 144 LED lights. I was most impressed by the deep scientific underpinnings of the artwork. The etching technique is capable of yielding animations that depict true brain activity, based on simulations that the artists studied. (FYI: These guys are also scientists!) Dunn’s website features an in-depth explanation of the process used to create Self Reflection, including studying neuron microscopy, reconstructing diffusion spectrum imaging, and mathematically simulating neuron activity, including:
Using these data, we then used algorithmic and mathematical simulations to chaotically link up the center points of neurons with the end points of axons and to infuse causality into the connectivity, the most complex part of the project. As microetchings are animated, these connections have timings associated with them and influence connections later made within complex neural circuits. We could control action potential speed, bursting vs. tonic behavior, axon diameter, degree of randomness in connectivity, etc.
A short video I recorded of Self Reflection at the Franklin Institute.
reading: Talking as Fast as I Can
After a winter of historical fiction (I just finished a dense novel by Philippa Gregory), it was time for something a little lighter. Right now, I am reading Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between), by Lauren Graham. Yes--that Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls fame. Her writing is just as frenetic as the speech patterns of her alter-ego Lorelai Gilmore. Each chapter is a distinct essay, with topics ranging from the perception of age in Hollywood to the future stars that guested on Gilmore (remember John Hamm in season 3?). Graham wrote the book, in part, while filming the Gilmore reboot in spring 2016, so I am particularly excited to read those essays.
watching: Wonder Woman
I am certainly not a superhero/comic book buff, but the new Wonder Woman trailer caught my eye recently and sent me into a black hole of research. Who is Wonder Woman? Well, she turned 75 this year (!) and had quite the range of looks over the years. For those of you less familiar, she was trained in the Amazon and has superior hunting abilities, combat skills, and strength. She also speaks many languages and has deep scientific knowledge, relying on a large collection of advanced technology. Despite her original launch during WWII, she became a feminist icon after she was promoted by Gloria Steinem on the first cover of Ms magazine in 1972. I'm hoping the Summer 2017 version of Wonder Woman is just as amazing.
And a little something funny...