Great Photoshop tip! How to (easily) eliminate all the white from an image

As I was working on my website today I found the need to get rid of all the white space in one of my illustrations in order to use it as a background image. I knew that saving it as a png, rather than a jpg, would allow for transparency, and that by using the magic wand I could select the white background and simply hit delete.

Unfortunately the image I was working with has a ton of tiny little white spaces in addition to the regular background so when placed against a non-white surface, like on my website, it didn't look so hot (I put gray behind it here to illustrate the difference). To get rid of all of those would have meant hours of painstakingly zooming in and clicking on each and every little white area separately...

So I began researching online and lo and behold there was an easier way! Maybe people more experienced with Photoshop than I am already know this trick but for those of you who don't, it is a lifesaver!
  1. First press Cmd+A then Cmd+C to select and copy the image from your Photoshop layer (make sure it is in an unlocked, editable layer)
  2. Click on the Channels tab and create a new Alpha channel
  3. Then click Cmd+V to paste the selection in this channel. (You might have to turn off the visibility on your other channels and click the eye icon next to this new channel to see it)
  4. Press Cmd+I to invert the image and then hold down the command key and click the channel layer
  5. Go back to your normal Layers tab and click the layer with your image, then hit Cmd+C and Cmd+V. This will select all the colored in regions in that image and place them in a new layer.
  6. Turn off the original layer and voila! Now all the white is gone and your image can easily be added to a colored background:

If you go to the original post by ValuedResource.com on Web Design Library (thank you!) there are more images with the step-by-step instructions. Overall, this method saves so much time and I am a much happier camper knowing I won't be staring at the computer screen for the next few hours...now instead I can go enjoy my Friday night pizza dinner :)


Serotonin and SIDS

A study by Boston Children's Hospital published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association seems to have found a correlation between serotonin levels and SIDS. Babies who have died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome appear to have lower than normal levels of serotonin in their brains. Since serotonin regulates many processes within the body, including sleep and wakefulness, a deficiency of this chemical would suggest that these SIDS babies were unable to recognize warning signs and wake themselves up when they entered a situation where oxygen levels were decreased (such as during stomach sleeping when they are more likely to work themselves into a corner or become surrounded by too much fluffy bedding).

Serotonin is a widespread neurotransmitter, contributing to many processes other than sleep including appetite, learning ability and - probably most famously - mood. While there is currently no way to test if a baby has low serotonin levels it makes me wonder how many babies who died of SIDS would  have continued to have serotonin-related issues later in life. Had they survived, would they have been plagued by learning disabilities or depression or would the body have found a way to right itself over time? How many people who suffer from depression now had a serotonin deficiency right from the beginning as an infant and were just lucky enough to escape SIDS?

As tempting as this research is, even if we could test a baby's serotonin levels we likely wouldn't be able to do anything to change the situation medically. Although parents naturally would want a "cure" it is highly unlikely this research would be able to provide one. What could we do? Prescribe antidepressants? Not a healthy choice when you consider the extreme delicacy of an infant brain that is growing and wiring itself together at the fastest rate it ever will, making connections that will last throughout it's life. Considering the side effects that these drugs have in adults alone, the result could be devastating on such a malleable infant brain. Besides, there is rarely "one cause" of any condition and even it is serotonin in this case, this neurotransmitter affects so many other life processes that to alter it in the hopes of solving one problem could cause ten other much more complicated issues. The most we could hope is that parents might be able to receive a SIDS-probability "heads up" in the future, but it is still an interesting find and gives us a bit more insight into this baffling condition.


Study linking MMR with autism RETRACTED

Breaking medical news today as the Lancet - the medical journal that originally published the 1998 study linking the MMR vaccine with autism - retracted the paper and accepted the claims as false. While the reason for retraction was the study's unethical conduction of research (conflict of interest, non-randomized participants, etc.), this points to flaws within the experimental design itself which are likely to have influenced the results. The possibility of unethical experimental techniques and confounded results becomes even more likely when we realize that funding for the study came from families who believed their children were harmed in some way by the MMR vaccine. All in all, we can not say for sure that the results of this study held any truth or not, but most doctors today do not support the link between MMR and autism. Additionally, to have a study retracted from public record is a very rare occurrence and is only done if there is a great amount of evidence against it.


The VisualMD

This is a great video clip highlighting Alexander Tsiaras and his work creating beautiful educational videos and interactives from real medical data. Beginning with a New York based company called Anatomical Travelogue, Tsiaras now has branched off and created TheVisualMD, an online database of interactives and articles for the medical education of the general public. He has also published several books, two of which live on my reference shelf: The Invision Guide to a Healthy Heart and The Invision Guide to Lifeblood. The images are really beautiful and I especially love how he takes real photographs and superimposes actual medical data on top to show relationships between the internal body and what you see happening on the outside.  Everything he uses is from real data; nothing is made up or the consequence of artistic license. Here are just a few examples of some of his work:
Alexander Tsiaras, Anatomical Travelogue and TheVisualMD
Alexander Tsiaras, Anatomical Travelogue 

And for an interesting comparison, take a look at this modern image by Alexander Tsiaras (from his book "The Architecture and Design of Man and Woman") constrasted with a piece done in 1774 by Jan van Rymsdyk entitled "The Anatomy of a Human Gravid Uterus":



Alexander Tsiaras, from"The Architecture and Design of Man and Woman"