A little more bioluminescence

December 26, 2014

Tags: bioluminescence

Hundreds of fireflies may settle on a tree and flash in synchrony, all blinking on, then going dark over several seconds. Is their blinking governed by a single controller? This can be seen in southeast Asia and in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


December 26, 2014

Tags: bioluminescence

Brainbow transgenic mouse hippocampus
I admit I do not understand a lot of this book (Bioluminescence, by Thérèse Wilson and J. Woodland Hastings), since I have zero background in biochemistry, but I'm fascinated by the topic. The picture (left, from the book) is of cells in a mouse's brain, colored by fluorescent proteins in random mixtures that make it possible to see each cell and its branching processes.

Fun facts about bioluminescence:
* It occurs primarily in marine organisms.
* It functions as defense, offense, (more…)

Techno poetry

November 16, 2014

Tags: bioluminescence, luminescence

A glow-in-the-dark bike path just opened in Nuenen, Netherlands, designed by an artist named Daan Roosegaarde as homage to Van Gogh's "Starry Night." (Roosegaarde's the one who called it techno poetry.) “By incorporating lighting into the bicycle path itself, additional street lighting is unnecessary,” reads a project description, which also assures us that the "bicycle path lighting is as subtle as possible to ensure minimal intrusion on the habitat of animals." Me, I'm a sucker for luminescent & fluorescent (more…)

Glow, glow, glow

August 10, 2014

Tags: bioluminescence

Was it tripping to black light posters that gave me a permanent fascination with bioluminescence, the light emitted by organisms like bacteria, fireflies and jellyfish? Is it just cool to see creatures that do something I can't? Would it be awesome—or embarrassing—if you could shake your tush to light it up? Why doesn't my friend Evelyn, a graduate student in cell biology, realize she could win a Nobel, easy, if she would switch to human bioluminescence as her research topic?

Look how beautiful these critters are, & what great names: sea sparkle, ghost fungus, alarm jellyfish, sea feather, fire centipede, sea firefly, genji firefly.

There are interesting scientific aspects to bioluminescence, not just trippy ones. J. Woodland Hastings, a Harvard biochemist who died a few days ago, researched bioluminescence and was known for "recognizing overarching biological processes in the humblest of organisms. His discovery of how bacteria communicate became the foundation for groundbreaking research in the development of more effective antibiotics." (His NYT obit is at

I just ordered a book called The Winking, Blinking Sea. Why do publishers seem to think this is a subject of interest only or mainly to children?