Science Images Of The Week: Double Black Hole, DNA Nanobots And More


Science isn't all about examining graphs and charts. In this weekly column, staff writer Andrea Alfano puts together the most striking science images from the past week's news for your viewing pleasure. Scroll down to find phenomenal images and fascinating facts about the science behind them.

Strange exceptions seemed to be the rule this week in science images. Below, you will find a photograph of a male giving birth, a quasar powered by a pair of black holes instead of the usual single supermassive black hole, and more surprises. 

A few weeks back, scientists showed us their artistic side with a DNA bunny, amongst other fun shapes. This week, in a paper published in Nature Communications, scientists used the concept of folding DNA into "origami nanostructures" to develop components of tiny devices such as nanoscale motors that can be used to power targeted drug delivery.

Markarian 231 is unlike any quasar astronomers have observed before. Instead of having a single supermassive black hole at its center fueling its extreme luminosity, it has a pair of black holes that orbit one another.

Scientists came to this realization while combing through Hubble Space Telescope data. Quasars, the brightest objects in the known universe, have characteristic patterns of UV radiation. The patterns of UV radiation in the Hubble data on Markarian 231 were best explained by a binary black hole rather than a single enormous black hole.

Between the light-colored circles in this scanning electron microscope image are single fibers of DNA. The circles are micropillars made of a material with properties that cause the DNA to become taughtly suspended between the pillars. The result are these direct images of the structure of DNA, in contrast to the X-ray crystallography method by which the structure of DNA was first confirmed.

Week after week, the intro text for this column specifically says that science "isn't all about examining graphs and charts." But sometimes graphs are like pieces of art themselves. Such is the case with this plot showing the connection strength between different parts of the brain while multitasking.

The color of the coordinate indicates the strength of the connection. The top graph shows the brain connectivity observed in the control group, while the bottom shows that connectivity in participants who were given a memory task. The researchers found that a person's multitasking skills tend to depend upon the extent to which these brain networks reconfigure themselves when switching between tasks, according to their report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Like the clusters of young hot stars that the media featured over and over again after the VMA show this week, clusters of young hot stars in galaxies such as the Prawn Nebula, shown above, are involved in a recycling process. This week, the European Southern Observatory released an explanation of how light from such stars causes gas in the nebula's clouds to glow, which sets off a chemical reaction that spurs the gases to emit different colors of light themselves.

Bizarrely, it's the male that gives birth in seahorses, as this Australian pot-bellied seahorse daddy is demonstrating here. Even more bizarrely, scientists reported this week in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, the males actually do as much to nourish the developing baby seahorses as the mother does after she hands over the kids to dad. Male seahorses have evolved to be able to provide them with nutrients such as energy-rich fats and calcium, which they need to grow their teeny seahorse skeletons.

Scientists are now using 3D modeling technology to study insects such as this rare millipede species, Ommatoiulus avatar. The species' name is a nod to its status as a holotype – a 3D digital avatar – apart from the one biological specimen that scientists have managed to find. The new millipedes species was described this week in the journal PLOS One.

About 460 million years ago, this terrifying five-foot-long sea scorpion swam in the waters that once covered the state of Iowa, where the 150-plus fossils of the new species were found. Named Pentecopterus decorahensis, the sea scorpion has a number of unusual features, including the spar of its head and legs, according to a report in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

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