Alien Cityscape?

Alien Cityscape?

Can you guess the identity of the tiny blue skyscrapers in today’s Science Mystery Pix

Hint: We have ~20,000 of these. The shorter “skyscrapers” are arranged in front and longer ones in back of a certain body part. Proteins with funny names like Noggin, Bmp and Bambi cause these gradients to develop. 

If you google guess the answer, try not to give it away, but add some confusing helpful information in your comment!

Awesome Poetry Hint by Rashmi Pahuja :

Like trees in a tunnel

Feeling the air funnel

Combed in waxy gel

Well dressed infantry

In Attention

Keeping all intruders out,

Record and decode

All the tremors, shakes and thunder.

#ScienceEveryday  when it’s not #ScienceSunday  .

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153 Responses to Alien Cityscape?

  1. Scot S says:

    Hmm, Off the top of my head, I can’t say. 🙂

  2. I hear what you’re saying.

  3. Rajini Rao says:

    I tried to throw in some red hearrings. 

  4. Chad Haney says:

    My interest is waxing and waning.

  5. Rajini Rao says:

    There are some sound guesses so far. 

  6. Frog’s hair?  😉

  7. Chad Haney says:

    The details get hairy though.

  8. Rajini Rao says:

    This one’s chicken but frogs are a good source of these too, Rebecca Raven 🙂

  9. Scot S says:

    Sonja Samuda A “Tinny” bell?

  10. Rajini Rao says:

    John Borgen these are not so much about looking sharp as they are of some other sense 🙂

  11. Rajini Rao says:

    Hope this mystery is not deafeating some folks?! 

  12. Yup! After I took my “Best Guess” I did some googling of the image. That was an interesting read.

  13. Rajini Rao says:

    John Borgen it’s nice when scientists pitch in to make new discoveries! 

  14. I like this image so much Ima gonna print it and pinna copy on my fridge.

  15. Rajini Rao says:

    David Archer  hear, hear! That’s welcome applause. 

  16. I see what your saying.

  17. …or I could just stapes it to my bulletin board… Oh wait, my printer is out of incus.

  18. Rajini Rao says:

    Drum roll! We have a punster hair among us. 

  19. Just a sec. let me upload this to …..hmmm

  20. aha…I got it, but I am out of tune.

  21. Rajini Rao says:

    Can you clue us in, Rashmi Pahuja ? 🙂 Edit, I tuned in a bit late with that comment! 

  22. Dean Calahan says:

    I have this eerie feeling. The hairs are rising on the back of my head.

  23. Rajini Rao says:

    A hair-raising experience from the sound of it, Dean Calahan .

  24. Mary T says:

    Fine as  frog’s hair?

  25. Rajini Rao says:

    I can’t deafinitely say, Mara Rose 😉

  26. Jun C says:

    LOL! Loving the comments! 🙂

  27. The comments made the picture sound a lot more interesting than I had imagined it to be.

  28. Like trees in a tunnel

    Feeling the air funnel

    Combed in waxy gel

    Well dressed infantry

    In Attention

    Keeping all intruders out,

    Record and decode

    All the tremors, shakes and thunder.

  29. Rajini Rao says:

    Raphael Ndem comments are an ear-replaceable part of a post, no? 🙂

  30. alev uneri says:

    cochlear hair cells of  —— ??!!! 

  31. Rajini Rao says:

    alev uneri I hair you loud and clear! 

    It’s from a chicken, btw. 

  32. Hugo Diaz says:

    Answer Link:  5/6/4102/evihcra/

    Why? You wrote confusing “crossed”, so reversing led to the other side. =P

  33. Paul M says:

    Anvil you ever tell us what it is?

  34. Rajini Rao says:

    Haha, Paul M . Hang on to your stirrups, the answer is coming. 

  35. Rajini Rao says:

    I’ll reflect on that one, Hugo Diaz ! 

  36. I would guess that they are cilia stop hair cells in the ear!

  37. Dean Calahan says:

    Chickens can regrow theirs, right? 

  38. Rajini Rao says:

    That’s not too cilia an answer, Avinash Pujala 🙂

  39. Rajini Rao says:

    Rashmi Pahuja your poem was wonderful, so I added it to the post 🙂

  40. Rajini Rao says:

    A useful feature after a rock concert, right Dean Calahan ? 🙂

  41. Dean Calahan says:

    Rajini Rao, just add EaRogaine to the list of pills old people need to take.

  42. Rajini Rao says:

    LOL, no more hair today, gone tomorrow

  43. Thank you Rajini Rao Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  44. Look closely! There is a miniature Raquel Welch in scuba gear!

  45. sounds like your describing nose hair

  46. Rajini Rao says:

    leilani bernosky we must have thrown you on the wrong sense scent 🙂

  47. as you have so beautiful hair hahaha

  48. John Kampsen says:

    I don’t think that Colonel Sanders ever featured these in his chicken line-up, Rajini Rao . Fun post, my friend. Hope that you are well :-}

  49. Rajini Rao says:

    You’re right, this would be TMI!

    Quickie Science could be a fast food alternative John Kampsen 🙂

  50. Ah yes, you are a geneticist. Genes, I hear what this is about.  

  51. Hi.Rajini,

    Why hexagons?

  52. Rajini Rao says:

    Alfonso Ramirez , I had not noticed how regular and hexagonal the cells are in this image! Cells do form polygonal edges when the grow tightly next to each other (as an epithelium) and liver cells also form hexagons. Great question! 

  53. Rajini Rao says:

    Winchell Chung I’m intrigued. Looks like a scene from a Bond movie. 

  54. gap-junction structure

  55. Rajini Rao says:

    Chafik Chahboune do you mean the gap junctions force the cells into hexagonal edges? I’ve not heard that specifically, although it could be due to junctional contacts (tight junctions, for example). 

  56. Rajini Rao Well, that turns out not to be the case. It is not a James Bond movie, though I can see why you would think that

  57. Rajini Rao says:

    Ohh yes, that one! I should have guessed! Thanks, Winchell Chung .

  58. Dina Bergman says:

    reminds me of membrane proteins (involved in cell communication); behaving as tags or “identification cards”)… hmm, I default to glycoproteins, but I’m excited to find out. I’m not sure. So what is it?! When will you post the answer?! 

    Ok, I tried again, but failed, so I give up (willingly), like I really want to know 🙂 … my online Google search adventure led me down to: ciliated epithelial cells.

  59. Re: hexagons – bees don’t start out to make hexagonal cells; they start out making round cell bases and the hexagon forms as a result of the interaction with adjacent cells.

  60. david olick says:

    I’m guessing it’s our hearing

  61. Rajini Rao says:

    david olick I heard that’s the gist of the comments too 🙂

  62. Adam Gill says:

    I can’t believe you casually dropped in some morphogen names without mentioning our good hairy friend, Hedgehog :P. Hopefully you won’t tell me to Shh after this…

  63. Rajini Rao says:

    Hear’s an older post with more pix and explanations:

  64. Rajini Rao Cripes, I never plussed that post – fixed!

  65. Rajini Rao says:

    Awww, you’re so nice David Archer . It’s not about the plusses, it’s all about the puns, really. 

  66. Nirnimesh says:

    The comments built up the suspense so much that I felt eerily happy to find out what it was.

  67. Rajini Rao says:

    A happy ending, Nirnimesh . ? 🙂

  68. Blue comment deleted which I blame on my cat.

  69. This image is about: Our ability to hear that relies on the “hair cells”, sensory receptors that mechanically amplify low-level sound that enters the inner ear through a transduction channel. Although the transduction channel was characterized more than 30 years ago, researchers have been unable to identify its molecular components. A new study published could help lead to a definitive identification of this mystery channel.

    Recent studies have suggested that members of the TMC family of membrane proteins are strong candidates as the components of the hair cell’s transduction channel. Now, a team led by scientists from the University of Wisconsin Medical School provides evidence that the TMCs instead couple the transduction channel to tip links — the mechanical elements that provide directional sensitivity to hair cells — and are not the channel itself. This suggests that the transduction channel may be a membrane protein distinct from TMCs that only functions properly once other key molecules are expressed.

    Whether or not TMCs turn out to be the transduction channel, the new results affirm that they play a central role in hair cell mechanotransduction. The work adds to evolving research aimed at understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that affect hearing.

  70. Rajini Rao says:

    Perhaps after copious consumption of Blue Nun, Paul T Morrison .

  71. Rajini Rao says:

    Adam Gill Apologies for omitting Sonic..particularly appropriate for this pix 🙂 we missed you at a mini punderstorm on Twitter centering around cars that Ran GTP through porins.  

  72. Bill Collins says:

    I wish I could photograph this reflection in someone’s vision to get a hairy eyeball shot. It would be so awesome. Eyes and ears.

  73. Rajini Rao says:

    Thanks, luis tecnarias for the press release info on a recent J. Gen. Physiol. paper. This image is from  BPoD , a really nice site that publishes one great image each day. The study that was referenced was about a phenomenon called tonotopy which is the mapping of different components of the sound we hear within our ear and our brain. For example, high pitched sounds are detected in the start of the cochlea whereas the low pitch sounds are detected further back. This gradient develops when the ear is formed. 

  74. Marta Rauch says:

    Thanks Rajini Rao!

  75. Adit Morey says:

    From the poem, I’m guessing that they are situated somewhere in the respiratory tract…near the nasal region maybe. But it’s fairly difficult to tell.

  76. Rajini Rao says:

    Mark Bruce , if it is spiral shaped like a snail shell, then you’re on the right track. Would it help if I said that the deflection of the “skyscrapers” is important?

  77. Rajini Rao says:

    What is neat is that the structures are arranged such that bundles with shorter cilia are in front of the long spiral and longer ones further (deeper) in, with the former specialized to detect higher pitch. So a complex sound is broken down into its components for detection, and the separation is mapped by space both in the detector and the decoder (brain). 

  78. Rajini Rao says:

    Your guess is quite right, Mark Bruce , and there is even a term for it: tonotopy 🙂 

  79. Rajini Rao says:

    Adit Morey , Dina Bergman sorry for the late response- I missed your comments. There are many surfaces in our body that have hair-like tufts of cilia, including the respiratory tract. However, the arrangement shown here is quite unique to the inner ear. These are “hair cells” showing hair bundles that deflect with sound and trigger the sensation of hearing. I had an older post with more pix and explanation here:

  80. Adit Morey says:

    Hello and good morning Proff. Rajini Rao !…the link on how cilia in ears help us detect sound was very interesting and informative. The functioning is purely mechanical and chemical. It’s very amazing.

    Actually, I had just taken a guess from the poem without seeing the previous comments. Given my fear of biology it was way off the mark. 😛 …but some of the aspects of biology are very interesting.

  81. Adit Morey says:

    I’m sorry, I meant to previously say my fear as well as very primitive knowledge of biology. I’m more comfortable with physics and mathematics.

    🙂 (I’ve done my B.Sc in physics. Now planning for M.Sc)

  82. Oh Cescilia you’re breaking my heart, you’re “shaking” my confidence daily.

  83. Psyllium’si mean little hairs that intake nutrition?? Or something

  84. Sure I spelled that incorrectly

  85. Rajini Rao I hair ya?

  86. Rajini Rao says:

    Haha, John Stroncheck ♫ I’d rather be a hammer than a cochlea ♫ doesn’t quite have the same effect as Simon and Garfunkel’s lyrics. 

  87. Rajini Rao says:

    Tracy Hentig Wheaton , meant cilium. These are in the inner ear and bend in response to sound waves; that’s how we hear 🙂

  88. Rajini Rao says:

    John Stroncheck ??

  89. It was a link to a YouTube video by a girl named Leah pretending to be someone else talking about Coke. Coke Leah? 

  90. Rajini Rao says:

    Hahaha! That went right through the space between my two ears. Perhaps, I should advertise it as the new front ear? 😛

  91. Yoshi Takeda says:

    The response to this post is deafening. I bet this chicken never thought he would become quite so famous.

  92. “Why did the chicken hear the road?”

    No, that will never work.

  93. Rajini Rao says:

    The chicken is likely shell-shocked by our silly yolks Yoshi Takeda and David Archer . 

  94. Chad Haney says:

    #NotAlbumin  hehe

  95. Yoshi Takeda says:

    Rajini Rao looking forward to the next rubber chicken festival 😉

  96. Amazing, I couldn’t guess Rajini Rao 🙂

    Telling that after I “firebug-ged” the pic and I found its name 🙂

  97. Rajini Rao says:

    Daniel Mihai Popescu  A beautiful image, isn’t it? Hard to believe such symmetry at this microscopic level. 

    Susana M. thanks for your gentle reminders, I need them 🙂

  98. Without looking, Fish scales? Or some part of a bug. Bug butt?

  99. Rajini Rao says:

    Nope. Nope. Nope. 

    You could check out the comments and hear what they say 🙂

  100. Hear what they have to say? I got tinnitus so it may be dawning on me.

  101. Rajini Rao says:

    Chad Haney I find that when I take a break from posting new material, my old posts get populated by inebriated aliens 🙂

  102. Chad Haney says:

    I’m glad I don’t have that problem Rajini Rao. I’ll see if Lacerant Plainer can help you with those aliens.

  103. Hehe … I could expound on the Gynn N Tonnix, but these inebriated aliens are not from the Altarian system. Maybe they are from a local stable perchance?

  104. Rajini Rao says:

    Lacerant Plainer haha, I was thinking he had experimented with Martiani on the rocks

  105. LOL Rajini Rao the etymology of Martiani led me down the path to some dead languages ;)… Though I Googled it, and the weather there is pretty nice

    Sorry for the tangent. You’re probably right. The fellahs are probably descended from some microbe we sent over on one of the rovers (any rhymes are not intended).

  106. Rajini Rao says:

    OMG, so much for making things up! That was awesome, thanks. 

  107. Rajini Rao says:

    Yes, that’s right Noel Abraham Cheriyan 🙂

  108. Misja Spaan says:

    I think they are painted wooden matches

  109. Rashid Ellis says:

    To inspect these answers, we would need… An auditor!

  110. Phillip Mann says:

    The hairs in our ears

  111. it is Allah’s artistry on science and everywhere if you realize it.

  112. A virus damaged mine and now I can’t hear you in my left ear.

  113. Based on the closeness and repetitiveness of the blue things, this is a biological thing and is part of a living thing

  114. Ari de Lima says:

    Rajini Rao esta impossivel…surpreendendo a cada novidade…hahaha

  115. Babu Singh says:

    Awesome @Rajini Rao​

  116. Luis said it so much better than I! Great photo!

  117. It’s really interesting

    Very good pic

  118. What I believe them to be is neither “hear” nor there?

  119. Ari de Lima says:

    Brincadeiras a parte,e com todo respeito a querida Rajini Rao,eu fico em cima do muro…não faço a menor idéia do que seja,(minha área é outra)mas independente disso,ficou uma linda closeup!

  120. How God created everything in order.

    No one can create and Allah has created and lived.

  121. Egg of some insect like mosquito?

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  123. Aira Harune says:

    anyone know what this is actually

  124. Nagendran M says:

    Did you say that these are NOT cilia?

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