Toad Visual Neurons

Weekends are for internet rabbit holes: watching Jurassic Park (for the millionth time) and discovering some really interesting research on how toads see. Above are stills from a video by researcher Jörg-Peter Ewert, testing how toad neurons react to various worm-like stimuli. (Warning, the video includes some images of lab animals.)

The pattern testing, and subsequent neural network, seem very relevant to computer vision work today (bonus for day-glo yellow too).


Playing through a bunch of old Intellivision games this summer and stumbled on Microsurgeon from 1982, where you navigate through the body and vaporize bacteria and tumors.

Video Of Virus Entering Cell

Video (yes, video: recorded with two cameras and converted to the image we see here) of a virus attempting to enter a cell. A complex problem, likened in the article to trying to film something the size and speed of a hummingbird flying around in a space as large as a backyard.

Via Princeton

“Mind Control” Of Paramecium

Controlling the motion of single-celled paramecium using a brainwave scanner and an Arduino – thinking about how this could be turned into a videogame using motion-tracking of the paramecium and targets/obstacles on the screen.

Via: Hackaday

Information capacity of a bacterium

… and from the same page as the last post, biologist Henry Linschitz suggested that a three-dimensional representation of a bacterium would require 10^13 (10,000,000,000,000) bits.

Based on my (possibly problematic) math, that’s 1.13686837721616 terabytes.  If it was a cube made of 2×2 Lego bricks, one for each bit, it would measure approximately 551 x 551 x 678′ (168,046 x 168,046 x 206,826 mm) – about 7 stories high.

Original paper titled “Number of Bits Represented by A Single Bacterium” from Essays on the Use of Information Theory in Biology, pg 252.

Image via: Brickset

Amino Acids and Proteins as Texts

Molecular diagram of a variety of amino acids

James Gleick strikes here again, this time a short mention of radiologist Henry Quastler (University of Illinois) suggesting that “an amino acid has the information content of a written word and a protein molecule the information content of a paragraph” (page 289).

Visualization of the structure of a protein (specifically Putative Acetyltransferase)

This of course suggests the reading of texts into amino acids/proteins and vice versa.

Gleick’s notes cite this as from a paper by Quastler called “Some of the Physicists Now Turning to Biology” in Essays on the Use of Information Theory in Biology, 1953 – an intial search of Google and JSTOR didn’t find the paper.

Amino acid diagram via: New England BioLab
Protein visualization via: