Microworld: A Tiny Adventure!

science, cat, microbiology, microscope

Are you a fan of teeny tiny things? Sure you are! That’s why you have such an affinity for Eyewire’s neurons, right? Did you know that neurons are only about 4 microns (.004 mm) to 100 microns (.1 mm) in size, and Eyewire’s dataset is only 350×300×60 µm3? That’s just slightly larger than 1 pixel on your screen! Oh, you did know that? Wow you must really like Eyewire!

I get it I get it, I’m a big fan of the microworld too, though I am better versed in microbiology than neuroscience. In fact, I’ve been working on something recently to help me get *up close and personal* with the microscopic! Did you want to see it? To be honest I’m not really supposed to be showing this stuff to anyone, it’s kind of a top secret project, and if you want to know the truth I’ve perhaps veered a little off course from my grant proposal.

But…. what the heck! For someone who loves the world of the small as much as I do, I know you’ll really appreciate this thing. I only share my inventions with others who I know will really *get* what I’m doing, you know? Okay, right this way!

Here it is! I know it looks a little crazy right now with all these wires and hot glue. Oh yeah, that is chewing gum! I had a late night where I was really in the zone but I ran out of my regular adhesive, you know? You get it! Let me give you a little tour.

Oh hold on, one second my phone is ringing. Oh this is important I have to take it, just don’t touch anything while I’m gone!


Okay I’m back! Now let me give you a little tour around? Hello, oh where did you go? Did you also get a phone call?

Oh, OH! I see. You pressed the “shrink” button. You fool! You fool! But wow it WORKED!!! My invention worked! Hahahahaha!

And how can I blame you, I probably would have done the same in your shoes! Well, it’s still got a few kinks to work out so it’s likely going to be some time before I can manage the unshrinking process. In the meantime you may encounter some friendly microorganisms while you’re exploring my lab. And maybe some other ones that want to murder you! Haha!

Let me help you get aquatinted so you can appreciate the full experience of nature’s MICROWORLD!science, cat, microbiology, microscopic, bacteria, calendar

Fun with Fungi Happy Hour

First session runs from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM on Thursday 5/20
Second session runs from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM on Friday 5/21
Third session runs from 10:00 PM to midnight on Friday 5/21

Fungi sure are funny little creatures, and come in many shapes and sizes. Some belong to the MACROWORLD and can be seen with the naked eye, such as the beloved mushroom! Others are teeny tiny, from multicellular molds, to unicellular yeasts!

You definitely want to accurately define any fungi you’re trying to make friends with. Fungi can be a delicious part of a healthy diet, can make your cheese taste delicious, can help fight disease, and can ferment your favorite beverages!

On the other hand fungi can also cause infections, make you feel really sick, make your old food look and smell very unfortunate, and even lead to death!

You want to make sure your ACCURACY is on point when IDing a fungi, so join in during this Accuracy Happy Hour to learn more everyone’s best fungal friends!

Swag (made possible by generous donations from Eyewirer @susi): Most accurate player completing at least 30 cubes wins their choice of face mask or notebook, plus a magnet! Second and third place will each also win a magnet.

1st Place Accuracy – 10,000 points
2nd Place Accuracy – 8,000 points
3rd Place Accuracy – 6,000 points
Achieve 95% Accuracy – 5,000 points
Achieve 90% Accuracy – 3,000 points
Achieve 80% Accuracy – 2,000 points
1,000 points for anyone under 80% who still plays at least 30 cubes in either slot.
(These bonus thresholds are non-cumulative, i.e. they will not combine. If you earn 3rd place, for instance, and presumably got over 95% accuracy, you still earn a 6,000 point bonus, not 11,000.)

Viral Hunt

Begins at 12:00 AM (midnight) on Saturday 5/22
Ends at 12:00 PM (noon) on Thursday 5/27

Viruses are predators constantly on the hunt for new pray. All viruses are parasitic in nature, that is, they require a host cell in order to survive and reproduce.  Each virus is on the lookout for a specific type of host cell that it knows and likes. Once it finds such a cell it hijacks it and repurposes it as a viral factory. Pretty mean!

We usually think of viruses as being disease-inducing, and many are! However, some create no noticeable disease, and others, such as bacteriophages that infect bacteria, can help humans or other animals suffering from bacterial infections.

Modern science has also helped humans guard against opportunistic viruses through the invention of vaccines! Vaccines introduce agents that resemble the disease-causing microorganisms to the immune system. This allows the immune system advanced notice to be on alert for specific viruses (or other pathogens) so it is not taken by surprise if they show up! Wow thanks science!

Swag: The top scoring player will win their choice of face mask or notebook, plus a magnet! Second and third place will each also win a magnet.

Each merger found – 1,000 points
7,500 additional points if all 12 are found
200 point bonus available on each merger to the player whose guess is closest
250 point bonus available to any player who guesses within 10 voxels of a merger

Protist Trivia

Begins at 11:00 AM on Sunday 5/23
Continues until 11:00 AM on Tuesday 5/25
Finishes with Power Hour from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Tuesday 5/25

Protists are basically a bunch of oddballs who didn’t really fit into any other group so they decided to stick together. They are defined as eukaryotic organisms that are NOT plants, animals, or fungi.

Some of these strange characters are really interesting however! Take the slime mold for example, which despite its “moldy” name is not classified as a fungus. Slime molds begin their lives as single celled amoeba like organisms, but can cluster together to form multicellular bodies, or in some cases the just all mush together into a giant single-celled organism with many nuclei! Weird! Although brainless, these large slime molds act with a kind of intelligence, able to solve mazes and learn new things.

It’s trivia time, so make like a slime mold and show us what you’ve got!

Swag: The top scoring player will win their choice of face mask or notebook, a magnet! Second and third place will each also win a magnet.

For every question —
1st to answer – 300 points
2nd to answer – 200 points
3rd to answer – 100 points

Eukaryotes vs Prokaryotes

Begins at 11:00 AM on Monday 5/24
Ends at 11:00 AM on Wednesday 5/26

Microorganisms with cells have either eukaryotic or prokaryotic cells. Viruses do not fit into either category as they do not have cells, and the jury’s still out on whether they should be considered to be alive or not. Should they even be considered microorganisms? Well, we’ve already included them so let’s not think too hard about it. Onto the VS challenge!

Eukaryotic cells have a nucleus and other organelles enclosed by a plasma membrane. Organelles are just what they sound like – tiny organs for cells that each preform a specific function to help the cell stay alive and do its job.

Plants, animals, fungi and algae all have eukaryotic cells.

Prokaryotes are single-celled organisms that lack membrane-bound structures. They do not have a defined nucleus but rather a nucleoid region that contains their DNA. While eukaryotic cells are generally large and complex, prokaryotic cells are small and simple.

Bacteria and archaea are the two types of prokaryotes.

Prokaryotes were the first living cells, while eukaryotes evolved from them around 2.7 billion years ago.

So will it be the original flavor, or the new, upgraded version of life?

Choose your team and we’ll soon find out!

Swag: The top scoring player on the winning team wins their choice of tote bag or t-shirt! Also, among the top 50% of players on the winning team, 1 player will be raffled their choice of face mask or notebook, and 3 more players will be raffled a magnet.

Starting Lineup – top 3 players on each team, who earn 75% of their score in bonus points
All Other Players – earn 50% of their score in bonus points
Winning Team – 20,000 additional points
Each Team’s MVP – 5,000 additional points
(The winning team is determined by average points per player, with 2x weight given to Starting Lineup players. To qualify for any of the above bonuses or affect the team score, players must earn a minimum baseline of 2,000 points.)

Bacterial Marathon

Begins at 10:00 AM on Wednesday 5/26
Ends at 10:00 AM on Thursday 5/27
You’re reading this correctly! Challenge week marathons are now starting at 10:00 AM instead of 8:00.

The event you’ve all been waiting for! The bacterial marathon! Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?

Bacteria were the very first organisms to live on Earth. They made their debut 3 billion years ago as aquatic ocean swimmers.

Bacteria are classified into five groups based on shape: spherical (cocci), rod (bacilli), spiral (spirilla), comma (vibrios) or corkscrew (spirochaetes). They can exist as single cells, in pairs, chains or clusters.

Bacteria can be found everywhere you go, and you may have just as many bacterial cells in your body as human cells! Mainly these guys are helping you digest your food. Thanks!

Some bacteria are pathogens or parasites that can cause disease, but the majority are pretty chill and not trying to give you any problems. Bacterial pals forever! But still wash your hands please…

Bacterial cells have been going strong for billions of years, so take a page out of their book and dig in for a full 24 hours of marathon tracing! We’ll see you at the finish line!

Swag: The top player (defined by number of points earned during the marathon time period) will win their choice of tote bag or t-shirt! Also, among the top 25% of players, 2 players will each be raffled their choice of face mask or notebook, and 3 more players will be raffled a magnet.

One live cell will be designated the “marathon cell,” with a 3x points multiplier!
Cube count bonuses: 3500 points per cube traced.
SC bonuses are doubled on all cells.
Every 3 SCs counts for 1 cube toward naming eligibility & per-cell completion bonus.
50 cubes = 5,000 points per completed cell, plus rights to vote on a new name for the marathon cell
200 cubes = 10,000 points per completed cell, plus rights to nominate a new name for the marathon cell

Microworld Closing Ceremony

Begins at 4:00 PM on Friday 2/28

Come celebrate the end of this competition, where admins will recognize everyone’s achievements. As always, we will include a round of promotions for Scouts, Scythes, Mystics, Moderators, and Mentors. If you’d like a promotion, you can request them here.

Artwork by Daniela Gamba