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Inside a Giant Ant Colony

Today's crazy science video: a Science Channel documentary in which scientists pour 10 tons of concrete down a massive anthill, let it harden for a month, then carefully excavate it to demonstrate the internal structure of the colony. It took three days of pumping to fill the colony with concrete.

The sad thing about this is that the colony was alive at the time. And it's a heck of a big colony -- the ants excavated an estimated 40 tons of dirt in its construction.

You may find the narration annoying. It's worth it to see what happens around the four-minute mark, though. The inside of the colony is shockingly well-organized, and looks creepily like an animal's lymph system.

(Via Kottke.org.)

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Design
Central Park Could Someday Be Home to the World's Tallest Wooden Tower
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DFA

A proposed wooden tower in Central Park would break world records and clean polluted waters—all while providing visitors with a stunning view of one of the world’s largest urban parks, according to Architectural Digest.

Designed by New York studio DFA, the prefabricated timber structure—called Central Park Tower—would loom 712 feet above Manhattan, making it the tallest of its kind. But it wouldn’t exist purely for ornamental purposes.

Standing in the center of the park’s scenic (yet horribly polluted) Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, the tower would also come equipped with a vertical-axis wind turbine. This eco-friendly feature would generate power to filter the 106-acre man-made lake’s approximately 1 billion gallons of contaminated water. Since few people would likely turn down the chance to score a great aerial view of the Big Apple, Central Park Tower would also offer a 56-foot-wide viewing platform, providing park visitors a panorama of the city.

Central Park Tower would be manufactured offsite and constructed in less than six months, according a DFA press release. Even though the project wouldn’t require months of labor or expensive materials, it would still rank among the city’s metal and glass skyscrapers as one of the 50 tallest buildings in all of New York. We'll toast a glass of purified water to that.

Check out some renderings of the proposed project below:

A rendering of Central Park Tower, a 712-foot-tall prefabricated timber observation tower proposed for New York’s Central Park that's designed by studio DFA.
DFA

A rendering of Central Park Tower, a 712-foot-tall prefabricated timber observation tower proposed for New York’s Central Park that's designed by studio DFA.
DFA

A rendering of Central Park Tower, a 712-foot-tall prefabricated timber observation tower proposed for New York’s Central Park that's designed by studio DFA.
DFA

[h/t Architectural Digest]

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Microscopic Videos Provide a Rare Close-Up Glimpse of the Natural World
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Courtesy of Nikon

Nature’s wonders aren’t always visible to the naked eye. To celebrate the miniature realm, Nikon’s Small World in Motion digital video competition awards prizes to the most stunning microscopic moving images, as filmed and submitted by photographers and scientists. The winners of the seventh annual competition were just announced on September 21—and you can check out the top submissions below.

FIRST PRIZE

Daniel von Wangenheim, a biologist at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, took first place with a time-lapse video of thale cress root growth. For the uninitiated, thale cress—known to scientists as Arabidopsis thalianais a small flowering plant, considered by many to be a weed. Plant and genetics researchers like thale cress because of its fast growth cycle, abundant seed production, ability to pollinate itself, and wild genes, which haven’t been subjected to breeding and artificial selection.

Von Wangenheim’s footage condenses 17 hours of root tip growth into just 10 seconds. Magnified with a confocal microscope, the root appears neon green and pink—but von Wangenheim’s work shouldn’t be appreciated only for its aesthetics, he explains in a Nikon news release.

"Once we have a better understanding of the behavior of plant roots and its underlying mechanisms, we can help them grow deeper into the soil to reach water, or defy gravity in upper areas of the soil to adjust their root branching angle to areas with richer nutrients," said von Wangenheim, who studies how plants perceive and respond to gravity. "One step further, this could finally help to successfully grow plants under microgravity conditions in outer space—to provide food for astronauts in long-lasting missions."

SECOND PRIZE

Second place went to Tsutomu Tomita and Shun Miyazaki, both seasoned micro-photographers. They used a stereomicroscope to create a time-lapse video of a sweating fingertip, resulting in footage that’s both mesmerizing and gross.

To prompt the scene, "Tomita created tension amongst the subjects by showing them a video of daredevils climbing to the top of a skyscraper," according to Nikon. "Sweating is a common part of daily life, but being able to see it at a microscopic level is equal parts enlightening and cringe-worthy."

THIRD PRIZE

Third prize was awarded to Satoshi Nishimura, a professor from Japan’s Jichi Medical University who’s also a photography hobbyist. He filmed leukocyte accumulations and platelet aggregations in injured mouse cells. The rainbow-hued video "provides a rare look at how the body reacts to a puncture wound and begins the healing process by creating a blood clot," Nikon said.

To view the complete list of winners, visit Nikon’s website.

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