Friend-of-Blog Kathryn is a molecular biologist and fine artist, and she’s kindly sharing this beautiful image of cardiac fibroblasts with us. (Thank you, Kathryn!)
Not sure what we’re looking at? Well, each of those structures is a highly magnified cell. The black circles at the center are the nuclei of the cells. The fluorescent green dye illuminates the strand-like structures which give these cells their name. Fibroblasts: fibrous cells. They form connective tissue, patching wounds and holding other cells together.
The image is scientifically, aesthetically and metaphysically appealing. Scientifically, it’s a really nice image that shows that the cells present are largely fibroblasts, and it demonstrates their characteristic stringy nature – what scientists call “morphology.” Aesthetically, it is pleasing, with the drifting cells resembling jellyfish or nebulas or -
O HOLY MOTHER OF DARWIN
DO YOU SEE THAT
DO YOU SEE THAT GHOST?!
IT IS HAUNTED IN HERE. THIS EXPLAINS EVERYTHING.
Pareidolia is probably my favorite cognitive bias! Broadly, it’s the charming human tendency to see meaning in random data. We particularly like to see faces in things that don’t usually have faces! The face of the Virgin Mary in a cheese sandwich! Not only that, but we can invent stories to justify random patterns. For example, we really understand this faucet.
Wow, faucet, it’s – it’s gonna be okay, little buddy. Wow. Can we, uh, get 50 cc’s of joy in here?
I love this cognitive error. It’s something we have to look out for when analyzing scientific data or forming religions, but when we’re not doing that, how lovely to find this humor and empathy in the shapes and patterns of everyday life! How great that our species takes such pleasure from taking white-circles-with-black-dots-in-them, and finds it so amusing to put two of them on a thing. Like this.
NOW THE POTATOES HAVE FEELINGS. And I love this. It makes our experience of the world better, and Jesus-Toast brightens any day. (Of course, people who don’t see pareidolias are good too. Some people don’t!)
The Fibroblast Ghost is not just a pareidolia, though. Remember, I said this image was satisfying Biologically, Aesthetically and Metaphysically! You see… this ghost is actually the Ghost of Experiments Past, a.k.a The Gremlin of Nonspecific Fuckery. If you are a scientific researcher, you may recognize him in these following guises:
Do you see him now?
Yes, I’m sure we’ve all seen this Ghost before. We thought we were making him up! We thought that there was NO WAY that a turned-off piece of equipment could turn itself on at 3 am, self-destruct, and burn all the evidence. For years, we were convinced that our problems were somehow human error, and that the problem was us.
Now you know, Scientists. We can relax; Kathryn has photographed the Ghost. Now it’s only a matter of time before we chase him down, characterize him, and write a paper about him. “Errata on the Metaphysics of Experimental Labwork.” I can taste the Nature paper now.
UPDATE February 5: We are pleased to announce that Dr. Micol M has slimed our ghost.
From Kathryn: “It’s ok, a colleague on the fibroblast project exterminated it. We ain’t afraid of no ghost!”
If your experiments start working better now, you guys know who to thank….