Monthly Micscape Article to inform, inspire, and debate.
Mols News, Snippets, & Tit-bits.
Mol Smith is the co-founder (along with David Walker) of Micscape Magazine and Microscopy-uk.org.uk

All sources as stated in each snippet. (c) mostly non-mic-uk unless stated!

September 2007


Fruit Flies help to determine if free will exists
Chip to restore balance in people?
What's killing the Honey Bees?
Acanthamoeba polyphagam / MRSA link


Something you never knew

Which insect has the most painful sting/bite?

Video of the month

Advert, but fantastic sequence of insects!


USB Microscope £90
Flexible TV Screen
New Web Search Engine to rival Google

Web sites to watch


We live in strange times. Such rapid change in a single human lifetime has never been known before. Micscape continues to flourish against a backdrop of evolving Internet technologies, where the infiltration of sites like Myspace, Facebook, Youtube, and others, attempt to sell the idea of a virtual 'community to our youngsters'. Anyone over the age of fifty might see the commercial footprint within these endeavours. I remember CB radio, the introduction of Big Brother TV, and other such banal events that moved the focus of our society, away from quality activities, on to mediocre and manic trivia. But, hey, I am 57 and, as an older person, I am supposed to think like this. Never-the-less, our world moves on into the next stage of its development, and with a whole new generation of people about to learn, as we have already discovered, life moves faster than one's dreams can anticipate. One day, they will feel as cynical as me.

However, we also live in a time where we stay alive longer, remain more astute, and can communicate either on a grand scale or in a corner of the world like no other generation before us. I am one for embracing such advantage for my own ideas, and in using technology in rivalry to the global and corporate aim of crass-led profiteering at any expense. This was the very idea which led me to introduce this web site with David Walker: the concept of study, for pleasure and self-learning, rather then to further individual profit, still seems like a great idea to me.

We can do well.

The pursuit of microscopy, and an interest in the world as it exists on a small-scale, has never been more important. Nano technology, global warming, Gene splicing, computer technologies, forensic science, human health and longevity, along with a general aim for technological miniaturisation has conjured a Victorian past-time into one of the most important human endeavours within a contemporary world. I think it is time for me to take a slight lead here in our inspirations. Hopefully,this may add new vigour to our pursuit of Microscopy, and keep us in touch with all the news relating to our interest in the world of the very small..

I aim to introduce here, monthly, all kinds of science news.


News Bites (extracted from the Media as stated)

Fruit Flies help to determine if free will exists.
(New Scientist 19th May 2007)
One of the immortal questions is "Do we have free will?" If we can understand all causes, along with their effects, it would mean we could predict the outcome of everything. One of the side-implications, if this were true, is that we would not really have free will, but are merely caught up in a progressive reaction where the choices we think we are making are already predetermined. A neurobiologist in Berlin has used fruit flies to determine if bevaviour is truly random. Björn Bremb, glued them to a torque meter inside a sensory deprivation chamber, where the interior is all white and offers no visual clues to help them orientate themselves. By feeding in the data to a computer, as they attempted to fly in this direction or that, and using sophisticated modelling software too analyse random behaviour, Bremb and his team were able to determine that the flies exhibited chaotic behaviour. This means they do, in fact, have a process of free will and are not governed by random 'coin-flipping' type influences. Their behaviour has proven to be unpredictable!

1 mm Cubed Chip to restore balance in humans.
(New Scientist 9th June 2007)
Andrei Shkel and his team at the University of California have built a remarkable device which will enable the implanting of a balance control chip into people suffering balancing problems due to damage or ill health. Measuring just 1 mm cubed, the device measure rotation in any direction through 3 micro-small gyroscopes and 3 micro accelerators, all at 90° to each other. A chip can now be designed to incorporate the device, and the batteries required to power it, small enough to allow implanting (5mm3).

What's killing the honey bees? (
New York Times)
Is a new virus, first identified by scientists in Israel, killing off bees? In the USA, about a forth of the nation's bee keepers, reported finding many adult bees had vanished from their hives. The losses captured public attention with exotic cause being muted for their disappearance. Scientists are now considering if one bee disease, called Israeli acute paralysis virus, is associated with the beekeeping operations that experienced big losses. A large research group has concluded this as likely, although members of the team emphasized that they had not proved that the virus caused the die-offs.

Acanthamoeba polyphagam amoeba acts as an incubator for MRSA bacteria (
Prof Michael Brown and colleagues at the University of Bath, in the UK, have discovered that MRSA in association with amoebae increased in numbers 1000x. Acanthamoeba polyphagam amoebae are often found at health care locations, and commonly eats a range of ordinary bacteria from the surrounding environment, including MRSA. However, instead of being digested by the amoebae, MRSA survives and replicates whilst inside the amoebae. {more here...}


usb microscope - microscop-uk USB Digital Microscope (http://www.thinkgeek.com/)
Cheap and cheerful at £90.00 / US179.00, a quick and easy to use 200x microscope which plugs straight into your USB port! Takes video, photos, & time-lapse photos and saves them onto your computer.

Flexible TV Screens
Sony has invented a unique, paper thin flexible video display. The tiny screen can be bent to cover any surface and is likely to give rise to moving video images on wallpaper and clothes.

New Search Engine to rival Google? (
Wiki Web Search)
A rebellious group of engineers hope to build a web engine to topple Google's dominance in the Search Engine business (an estimated £10 billion industry). Disgruntled with the secrecy surrounding web engine algorithms, the new engine will be open-source and and based upon the same protocols as Wikipedia.

Press Release (abridged /
Full version)
LookSmart provides search technology assets to enable distributed web crawling, others join growing list of organizations looking to make open source search a reality.

Portland, OR (PRWEB) July 27, 2007 -- Wikia, Inc., the leading provider of community resources for building and organizing free content on every topic, today unveiled major next steps in its work to build a new search platform founded on open-source search protocols and human collaboration at the O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON). In a morning keynote address, Wikia co-founder Jimmy Wales discussed business models and his vision for building the LAMP stack for search, which can be done by assembling open-source technologies.

Wales announced that Wikia has acquired Grub, the original visionary distributed search project, from LookSmart (NASDAQ: LOOK) and released it under an open source license for the first time in four years. Grub operates under a model of users donating their personal computing resources towards a common goal, and is available today for download and testing at: http://www.grub.org/ .

“We’ve had a tremendous response from very interesting commercial players in the search space,” said Jimmy Wales, co-founder and chairman, Wikia, Inc. “The desire to collaborate and support a transparent and open platform for search is clearly deeply exciting to both open source and businesses. Look for other exciting announcements in the coming months as we collectively work to free the judgment of information from invisible rules inside an algorithmic black box.”

Grub, now open source, is designed with modularity so that developers can quickly and easily extend and add functionality, improving the quality and performance of the entire system. By combining Grub, which is building a massive, distributed user-contributed processing network, with the power of a wiki to form social consensus, the open source Search Wikia project has taken the next major step towards a future where search is open and transparent.

Web Sites of the Month

Wikisky -
A wonderful project cataloguing the night sky. Get whisked off to the far reaches of the universe at the click of a button. Half a billion celestial objects to choose from!

AntBase -
Databasing over 12000 species of Ant, this must be the definitive site on this most versatile insect.

Something you never knew

What insect gives the painful sting?
A genus of ant, Paraponera, consists of a single species, commonly named the bullet ant (P. clavata) due to its powerful and potent sting, which is said to be as painful as being shot with a bullet. The pain caused by this insect's is greater than that of any other Hymenopteran, and is ranked as the most painful according to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. It is described as causing "waves of burning, throbbing, all-consuming pain that continues unabated for up to 24 hours".{more}


Video of the month

Millimetres Matter (youtube)



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