An X-Ray of My Broken Hand!

X-Rays are awesome!  You, the JimOnLight audience have had the horrid experience of fire and gore pleasure of seeing several images and video of the inside of my body (and not THAT kind of inside, GREG) during that absolutely awesome experience I had with shoulder surgery, MRIs, getting bruises from surgery turned into glass gobos, and the trials and tribulations of wiping with the non-dominant hand.

Ah, the memories.

Well CHECK IT OUT!  I broke my hand!  That means X-RAY IMAGES TIME!  It’s the right hand (duh), and if you look just over there at the right pinky finger, you’ll notice the break.  There’s also a crack that runs all the way down the side of my palm.  When I do something, I do it full-out!

I love x-rays!


Also, remember this?

JimOnLight’s Shoulder MRI from Jim Hutchison on Vimeo.

Have a great night, everybody!  I’m going into a painkiller haze, and I should call my Dad before he Facebook guilts me to death.

[love you, f*cker!]

The Heartbeat of a Sun-Like Star in Infancy


This is so beautiful — you’re looking at what appears to be the “heartbeat” of a protostar, which is a sun-like star that forms out of a giant interstellar cloud full of molecular hydrogen and dust.  Most of these clouds are found within the interstellar medium, which is best explained as the big space between star systems in a galaxy.  Inside of these huge clouds of dust and molecular hydrogen (among other interstellar stuff), there is a lot that goes on, and it is some very complicated stuff, as you can imagine.  Essentially, all of our knowledge on this is theoretical to some extent, as we obviously can’t just swing over and check it out for ourselves, we have to rely on telescopes, satellites, spectral analyses, and other data we collect on the subject.

As dust and gasses float around inside of these interstellar clouds, gravity plays a huge part in the creation of a new star.  As gravity pulls dust and gasses into a “clump” at the center of one of these clouds, more and more stuff clumps together, creating a core of sorts — nobody really has a clue how this happens and why it occurs, but as a trillion trillion trillion of these bits of dust, interstellar gasses, and other “stuff” pull together to create a mass, the temperature of the core goes up.  This is to be expected, as these bits of dust and gasses slam into each other.  The density of this “core” also increases as more and more atoms inside of the interstellar cloud try to occupy the same space as they are pulled together by gravity.  Also as you can imagine, the gravity of this core gets considerably stronger as more and more bit of interstellar stuff collect and clump at the core, which causes the temperature to get higher and gravity to get even stronger.  This is the birth of a star.  This process of a star grabbing more and more mass is called accretion.

A pretty interesting phenomena happens when the star being born reaches a point where the gas pressure inside the core is equal to the gravity of the entire core — the protostar reaches an equilibrium, and no more mass is pulled into the core.  This is what is happening right now in the star being born in the video above, called V1467 Orionis, which is being born right now in McNeil’s Nebula, a big circular cloud of dust and gas located inside the constellation Orion.  It was detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Japan-led Suzaku satellite.  This is literally a star being born.  In the video above you saw two spots, one on either side of the star — these are enormous holes where the core is sucking in more gas and dust to fuel birth.  Once equilibrium is established, this feeding will stop.  The when, where, how, and why is unknown, but boy is it gorgeous.

Click on the image below for a full-size image of V1647 Orionis.

This image below is McNeil’s Nebula, which resides inside of the constellation Orion:

Thanks to, NASA, and Cosmic Ray!

Amyloidosis Gets Illuminated By X-Rays

Any Dr. House fans out there?  I am totally raising my hand.

If you watch the medical shows, you might hear Dr. House or Foreman say something about Amyloidosis, Lupus, or Sarcoidosis.  Someone inevitably says “it’s not lupus,” and House makes a smarmy comment about always being right.  That first condition, Amyloidosis, just got some press that I thought was pretty interesting.

Amyloidosis is  a weird unexpected buildup of the amyloid beta protein in organs of the body; it causes all kinds of really bad conditions, some of which are not well understood.  Amyloid beta protein plaque buildup is known for being present in Alzheimer Disease patients, and can affect the heart, nervous system, GI tract, liver, kidneys, and is a very nasty little monkey.  The protein builds up and just causes the organ to fail.  Unfortunately there is no cure yet, but medicines improve someone’s quality of life, from what I have been reading.

The search for a cure is ongoing, and after two paragraphs of rambling I am finally going to get to the story!  Scientists have had some success with using very high powered x-ray beams to image the amyloid beta plaques; this is a very difficult task for any imaging technology because of the amyloid size – around one millionth of a meter.  In a press release from Brookhaven National Lab, where the big Synchrotron light source lives and where the testing took place, the process is discussed:

“These plaques are very difficult to see, no matter how you try to image them,” said Dean Connor, a former postdoctoral researcher at Brookhaven Lab now working for the University of North Carolina. “Certain methods can visualize the plaque load, or overall number of plaques, which plays a role in clinical assessment and analysis of drug efficacy. But these methods cannot provide the resolution needed to show us the properties of individual Aß plaques.”

A technique developed at Brookhaven, called diffraction-enhanced imaging (DEI), might provide the extra imaging power researchers crave. DEI, which makes use of extremely bright beams of x-rays available at synchrotron sources such as Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source, is used to visualize not only bone, but also soft tissue in a way that is not possible using standard x-rays. In contrast to conventional sources, synchrotron x-ray beams are thousands of times more intense and extremely concentrated into a narrow beam. The result is typically a lower x-ray dose with a higher image quality.

Also, on how the beam works:

To make a diffraction-enhanced image, x-rays from the synchrotron are first tuned to one wavelength before being beamed at an anatomical structure or slide. As the monochromatic (single wavelength) beam passes through the tissue, the x-rays scatter and refract, or bend, at different angles depending on the characteristics of the tissue. The subtle scattering and refraction are detected by what is called an analyzer crystal, which diffracts, or changes the intensity, of the x-rays by different amounts according to their scattering angles.

The diffracted beam is passed onto a radiographic plate or digital recorder, which documents the differences in intensity to show the interior structural details.

Finding out how to see this amyloid plaque buildup is a very useful tool in tracking Alzheimer’s in patients because if we know what to look for, we can possibly see into the future a little in testing and make predictions that could save lives.  Testing has been done on mice, but the procedure still delivers too high a radiation dose for human testing.  Part of the process towards using the technique clinically is to lower that dosage, obviously.

amyloid plaque buildup

Thanks, BNL and Medgadget!

The Linac Coherent Light Source

$500 million dollars later, the DoE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford has created the world’s brightest X-ray source – world, meet the Linac Coherent Light Source:


The LCLS is the first high energy X-ray laser light source – also called a “hard” laser – and it’s going to turn some heads.  The LCLS will, once the finest tunings take place, create the world’s brightest short-pulse X-ray laser for scientific study.  Using the LCLS, scientists will be able to study the arrangement of atoms in a ton of materials, from metals to catalysts, plastics, and bio mateiral.  In short, this thing is pretty amazing.

From the press release at the SLAC:

“This milestone establishes proof-of-concept for this incredible machine, the first of its kind,” said SLAC Director Persis Drell. “The LCLS team overcame unprecedented technical challenges to make this happen, and their work will enable frontier research in a host of fields. For some disciplines, this tool will be as important to the future as the microscope has been to the past.”

Even in these initial stages of operation, the LCLS X-ray beam is brighter than any other human-made source of short-pulse, hard X-rays. Initial tests produced laser light with a wavelength of 1.5 Angstroms, or 0.15 nanometers-the shortest-wavelength, highest-energy X-rays ever created by any laser. To generate that light, the team had to align the electron beam with extreme precision. The beam cannot deviate from a straight line by more than about 5 micrometers per 5 meters-an astounding feat of engineering.

“This is the most difficult lightsource that has ever been turned on,” said LCLS Construction Project Director John Galayda. “It’s on the boundary between the impossible and possible, and within two hours of start-up these guys had it right on.”

Unlike conventional lasers, which use mirrored cavities to amplify light, the LCLS is a free-electron laser, creating light using free-flying electrons in a vacuum. The LCLS uses the final third of SLAC’s two-mile linear accelerator to drive electrons to high energy and through an array of “undulator” magnets that steer the electrons rapidly back and forth, generating a brilliant beam of coordinated X-rays. In last week’s milestone, LCLS scientists used only 12 of an eventual 33 undulator magnets to generate the facility’s first laser light.

Chock one up for the DoE scientists.  I’m thrilled to see what this thing can do.

Thanks, MedGadget!

The X-Ray Light


I found this fixture set (it comes with two designs) on a whim – I like the design itself, it’s an x-ray photo of incandescent and compact fluorescent lamps mounted onto a steel frame.  The negative of a light source at its center adds a weird and wonderful conceptual touch though, doesn’t it?

The designer is Won-Suk Cho, and the price tag is $229.00.  I found the lamp at Generate.