The Origins of Memory

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The slime mould Physarum polycephalum is a single-celled organism without an obvious nervous system. Nevertheless, it has recently been shown to use an external spatial memory to navigate. When it explores an environment, it leaves behind a trail of extracellular slime, which if it encounters later, it strongly avoids. This response ensures that the organism does not revisit areas that it has already investigated.  The avoidance behaviour is also a choice because when no previously unexplored territory is available, the slime mould no longer avoids the slime. In essence then it possesses an externalised memory, which because it relies on feedback from chemicals, maybe a precursor to our own. Here the tracks left behind by the slime mould, or that is its memory, have been revealed using a DIC microscope. The spaces occupied by its filaments can be clearly seen surrounded by small crystals which must represent its memory

Webs: narratives revealed by the microscope

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The web is built as a trap, and even after the spider has abandoned it, it still retains this function. However, in this case, instead of catching insects it serves as a trap for much smaller prey.  Huge volumes of air pass through its structure, and thus it acts as a kind of passive filter feeder concentrating biological information in the form of human skin cells, fabric microfibers, and other dander. We like comets, leave a trail of trail of debris as we move through any environment, and this normally invisible tail, of what we are made of, or what we chose to wear, is captured by the web  so that its threads hold a microscopic narrative of our past actions. The microscope reveals these many stories.

Visualizing My Microbiome

     

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1000x. My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells with a dark staining nucleus (my genome lives here). Numerous bacteria are visible either attached to the cells or in other parts of the stained sample.

1000x. My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells with a dark staining nucleus (my genome lives here). Numerous bacteria are visible either attached to the cells or in other parts of the stained sample.

1000x. My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells with a dark staining nucleus (my genome lives here). Numerous bacteria are visible either attached to the cells or in other parts of the stained sample.

1000x. My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells with a dark staining nucleus (my genome lives here). Numerous bacteria are visible either attached to the cells or in other parts of the stained sample.

1000x. My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells with a dark staining nucleus (my genome lives here). Numerous bacteria are visible either attached to the cells or in other parts of the stained sample.

1000x. My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells with a dark staining nucleus (my genome lives here). Numerous bacteria are visible either attached to the cells or in other parts of the stained sample.

1000x. My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells with a dark staining nucleus (my genome lives here). Numerous bacteria are visible either attached to the cells or in other parts of the stained sample.

1000x. My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells with a dark staining nucleus (my genome lives here). Numerous bacteria are visible either attached to the cells or in other parts of the stained sample.

Paul Ehrlich’ made countless contributions to science,  in fields as diverse as histology, haematology, immunology, oncology, microbiology and pharmacology. In the course of his investigations Ehrlich came across methylene blue, which he regarded as particularly suitable dye  for staining bacteria. Here I have drawn upon Ehrlich’s early studies on staining bacteria and developed a simple off-the shelf/ DIYBio-staining procedure for bacteria and  human cells. It is based on methylene blue which is readily available as a “fish medicine”. The brand I used here is King British Methylene Blue. It works very well as it comes in the bottle, and without the need for any messy preparation. Here I have stained saliva from my own mouth and the stain has revealed my own cells, their nuclei, and the normal bacterial flora of my mouth

Crystals

Sodium Nitrite

Sodium Nitrite

Sodium Nitrite

Sodium Nitrite

Sodium Nitrite

Sodium Nitrite

The amino acid histidine

The amino acid histidine

The amino acid histidine

The amino acid histidine

The amino acid histidine

The amino acid histidine

More crystals as viewed usingC-MOULD’s new Nikon Eclipse Ni-U Differential Interference Contrast  Microscope.

Narratives of Dust: comparison of the indoor/outdoor environment

Outside dust: spores and microbes

Outside dust: spores and microbes

Outside dust: spores and microbes

Outside dust: spores and microbes

Inside Dust

Inside Dust

Inside Dust: human keratinocytes and fabric microfibres

Inside Dust: human keratinocytes and fabric microfibres

Inside Dust: human keratinocytes and fabric microfibres

Inside Dust: human keratinocytes and fabric microfibres

Inside Dust: human keratinocytes and fabric microfibres

Inside Dust: human keratinocytes and fabric microfibres

Inside Dust: human keratinocytes and fabric microfibres

Inside Dust: human keratinocytes and fabric microfibres

“There shall be in that rich dust a richer dust concealed”

Where it is left to settle and left undisturbed, dust will form an informative yet fragile grey stratum.  If they avoid the gaze of the avid cleaner, these deposits can be ancient and being made mostly of shed human skin, animal dander, and microfabric fibres, a  layer of dust, like sedimentary rock, can hold a fragile record of  life,  passage and occupation. Here I have collected dust samples from neglected and overlooked corners and crannies from buildings and examined these under a microscope so that each sample came to  reveal its own unique story. I like to think of these as microscopic sagas that settled directly from the air itself,  long after their participants had left the scene,  and in the ensuing silence, the  room’s atmosphere had stilled to allow this to happen.

As one might expect there are significant differences between dust collected from indoor environments and that from the outside. Inside dust is mixture of human skin keratinocytes and fabric micro fibres, whereas that collected from the outside is mostly made of microorgansisms, biological debris  and spores.

Ehrlich Staining: a simple off-the-shelf/DIY Bio stain for bacteria, microorganisms, DNA and human nuclei

Gram negative rods stained with the methylene blue stain. 400x

Gram negative rods stained with the methylene blue stain. 400x

Gram negative rods stained with the methylene blue stain. 1000x

Gram negative rods stained with the methylene blue stain. 1000x

Yeast cells purchased from a supermarket and stained with an off-the-shelf/DIY Bio Stain. 1000x

Yeast cells purchased from a supermarket and stained with an off-the-shelf/DIY Bio Stain. 1000x

My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal  buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells  with a dark staining nucleus. Numerous bacteria are visible either attached the cells or in other parts of the stained sample. 1000x

My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells with a dark staining nucleus. Numerous bacteria are visible either attached to the cells or in other parts of the stained sample. 1000x

My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal  buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells  with a dark staining nucleus. Numerous bacteria are visible either attached the cells or in other parts of the stained sample. 1000x

My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells with a dark staining nucleus. Numerous bacteria are visible either attached to the cells or in other parts of the stained sample. 1000x

My own saliva stained with methylene blue. This is cluster of cocci shaped bacteria from my mouth . 1000x

My own saliva stained with methylene blue. This is cluster of cocci shaped bacteria from my mouth . 1000x

My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal  buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells  with a dark staining nucleus. Numerous bacteria are visible either attached the cells or in other parts of the stained sample. 1000x

My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells with a dark staining nucleus. Numerous bacteria are visible either attached to the cells or in other parts of the stained sample. 1000x

My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal  buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells  with a dark staining nucleus. Numerous bacteria are visible either attached the cells or in other parts of the stained sample. 1000x

My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells with a dark staining nucleus. Numerous bacteria are visible either attached to the cells or in other parts of the stained sample. 1000x

My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal  buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells  with a dark staining nucleus. Numerous bacteria are visible either attached the cells or in other parts of the stained sample. 1000x

My own saliva stained with methylene blue. Personal buccal epithelial cells are visible as large pale blue cells with a dark staining nucleus. Numerous bacteria are visible either attached to the cells or in other parts of the stained sample. 1000x

Paul Ehrlich’ made countless contributions to science,  in fields as diverse as histology, haematology, immunology, oncology, microbiology and pharmacology. His discovery of arsphenamine (Salvarsan) for the treatment of syphilis, and which was the first modern antibiotic, won him wide international acclaim. His early contributions in the field of antibiotic therapy were decisive in initiating the wider development of antibiotics decades later.

In the course of his investigations Ehrlich came across methylene blue, which he regarded as particularly suitable dye  for staining bacteria (later, Robert Koch also used methylene blue as a dye in his research on the tuberculosis pathogen). In particular in stained preparations, Ehrlich noted that bacteria,  and the nucleus of human cells which contains the cell’s DNA, both stained blue, but not other parts of the human cell.

Here I have drawn upon Ehrlich’s early studies on staining bacteria and developed a simple off-the shelf/ DIYBio-staining procedure for bacteria, yeast and human cells. It is based on methylene blue which is readily available as a “fish medicine”. The brand I used here is King British Methylene Blue. It works very well as it comes in the bottle, and without the need for any messy preparation.