07 December 2008

Anthrax plush

Giant Microbes just released some new plush microbes. One of which is Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis).
While cute, if this is one of your holiday purchases I wouldn't openly talk about mailing anthrax to people, especially while in line at the post office.


05 December 2008

Felt animal pillows

More gift ideas coming at you all week!

Allenbrite sells a variety of felt home wares, but their felt pillows really caught my attention. They are bright and cheerful, yet true to the animal featured.

I like the furry belly on the brown bat.


Mincing Mockingbird

While I was starting my holiday shopping/browsing, I came across The Mincing Mockingbird's shop that features very beautiful prints of birds with creative titles as well as magnets that feature birds making snarky comments.

Take a look for the bird lover or nature aficionado on your gift list.


21 November 2008

Ears and Moles

Here are two cute and biological things I saw on the Craft blog in the past two week.

First, is this star-nosed mole knitting pattern by f. pea. The star-nosed mole, Condylura cristata, spends time in and out of the water and can forage along the bottoms of streams and ponds. It uses its 22 pink nose tentacles to detect small prey, as they are functionally blind, and they can even smell underwater.

Second is a beautiful piece of embroidery of the anatomy of an ear by Crafster user weird_lover_wilde.


10 November 2008

NIghtshade Family

"Members of the NIghtshade Family" by Drew at Toothpaste for Dinner.

It's true, the Nightshade family (Solanaceae) contains several economically important species, although its doubtful Steve is one of them. Members of the Solanaceae make a number of different alkaloids (nicotine for example) - some toxic, desirable, or both.

Within the family, the genus Solanum include species that provide us eggplants, potatoes, and tomatoes. Nicotiana is tobacco, Capsicum give us bell peppers and chili peppers, Petunia is often cultivated for their flowers, and Atropa belladonna is belladonna.


09 November 2008

Darwin in The Fall

I just watched the movie The Fall last night, which was directed by Tarsem Singh.

"In a hospital on the outskirts of 1920s Los Angeles, an injured stuntman begins to tell a fellow patient, a little girl with a broken arm, a fantastical story about 5 mythical heroes. Thanks to his fractured state of mind and her vivid imagination, the line between fiction and reality starts to blur as the tale advances" -- IMDb
One of the heroes in the story is Charles Darwin, who sports a very fluffy and very awesome pink flamingo coat and a bowler hat. He carries around a bag that contains his "colleague" and pet, a monkey named Wallace, who no one but Darwin ever sees, but who whispers ideas to Darwin throughout the movie. You can watch a clip of the movie introducing Darwin here.

Wallace, of course, is in reference to Alfred Russel Wallace, who was also a British naturalist and seldom credidted for his independent development of the theory of natural selection. Darwin and Wallace corresponded via letters over the years and both scientists' thoughts on natural selection were first presented together. A few have suggested there was a conspiracy to rob Wallace of his credit and that Darwin had taken ideas from Wallace to complete his own theory. This must be why the filmaker portrayed the fictionalized Darwin as frequently jotting notes and sketching pictures into his notebook while Wallace the monkey would interject with ideas to help him. At one point in the movie Darwin exclaims, at the immenent demise of Wallace, "I'll tell everyone they were your ideas. They're going to find out that I'm a fraud."

While many scholars have refuted this dynamic (this Wallace FAQ is a good reference for questions about Wallace) and I would never call Darwin a fraud, I enjoyed the movie The Fall and I liked the portrayal of Darwin. It's a refreshing change to see him shown as young and cavalier in his flamboyant coat than how one usually sees him depicted as a solemn bearded old man.


04 November 2008

Isopods predict McCain to win

We had lab tonight while all polls were still open on election night. We were looking at orientation behavior in isopods (also know as roly-polys or pill bugs) and what conditions they prefer.

In the spirit of the election, 2 groups of students tested if isopods prefer red light (a proxy for republican) or blue light (democrat) when given a choice. In one trial, the isopods unanimously chose the red light chamber, and in the other trial, the movement was more random, but never less than 50% of isopods were in the red chamber.

So, it looks like isopods predict a McCain victory. Watching CNN right now however, it looks like isopods may not be the best predictor of the outcome of the election.

Update to title: Isopods fail to predict election.
Go Obama!


03 November 2008

I hope everyone had a Happy Halloween on Friday.
Not biological, but this year I carved a headless horsemen pattern I got from Zombie Pumpkins.

And of course, if you live in the U.S., remember to vote tomorrow!
I know the election is drawing near, as the number of campaign fliers I get in my mailbox steadily increases.


28 October 2008

Stomate Costume

Halloween is almost here! And if you're planning on going to a costume party this year its not too late to start crafting a costume.

I decided to look for cute science and biological costume ideas, but I can't seem to find many pictures. Black cats and and bats are animals its true, but it's much harder to find things not generally associated with Halloween decor.

By happy accident, I just finished grading a huge stack of lab reports on transpiration (the loss of water by plants). Then I found this photo on Flickr of someone dressed up as a plant stomate! Stomata are pores on the surface of leaves on plants, and they open and close to regulate the intake of carbon dioxide into the plant and the release water and oxygen into the atmosphere. Actually, this costume is part of a whole set of photos of students dressed up as their favorite adaptation. What a great costume party theme for nerdy graduate students or any group of science enthusiasts.

If you have pictures of people dressed up in biological or science finery, post links in the comments below!


16 October 2008

Carnivorous plant calendar

A Print A Day has a calendar template, beautifully illustrated with carnivorous plants, available for download (via Craft).

Carnivorous plants are those that attract, trap, and digest insects and other small prey. They live in nutrient poor areas and so they utilize the nutrients from their prey, especially nitrogen, to grow.

July features a venus fly trap (Dionaea muscipula) and August has flowers from a bladderwort (Utricularia). September looks like cobra lilies (Darlingtonia californica), October features a dutchman's pipe, Aristolochia, and December are sundews (Drosera).


15 October 2008

Well educated supervillains

I was watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory today ("The Codpiece Topology") and one of the characters raises an interesting point about super villains. He was listing evil villains in comic books like Dr. Doom and Dr. Octopus, when he went on to say:

"It's amazing how many supervillains have advanced degrees. Graduate school should do a better job of weeding those out."
I guess I had never thought about super heros and super villains in that context before, but people over on Everything2 did about 8 years ago. They compiled an even larger list of supervillains with advanced degrees:
One commenter made a very interesting point:
"The phenomenon of over-educated supervillains, equally prevalent in horror fiction and comic books, goes back at least as far as the Victorian archetype of the Mad Scientist - people who worshipped the false god of the intellect, often violating taboos in their ungodly pursuit of knowledge. Usually these villains were doomed to be destroyed by their own creations, but often would instead be slain or overthrown by courageous heroes of no exceptional intellect, but stout Christian hearts. The triumph of Good over Evil was therefore also a triumph of the spirit over the intellect."
It is unfortunate that scientists are often shown as morally corrupt and used to demonstrate the potential perils of putting all your faith in the power of technology and pursuit of scientific knowledge. But in the end, it's not their science educations that make them evil, it's their actions. Luckily, scientists don't always get a bad rap, well educated superheros exist too, Iron Man and Professor X for example.

The roll of "evil scientist" can also be pretty funny. Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog is a great modern example of the well educated supervillain. Or, want-to-be supervillain in this case.

If you know of other supervillains with advanced degrees, post them in the comments below.


13 October 2008

There will be oil

I saw an episode of Good Eats this weekend ('There will be oil') with cooking oil as the topic. Alton Brown explains the chemical structure of oils, including what is meant by saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated, by making them out of balloons!

Definitely worth a watch, the balloon action begins at minute 2 in the video below. The black balloons represent carbon atoms, and the hydrogen atoms are the yellow balloons.


30 September 2008

Sea creature knitting patterns

Hansigurumi has a large collection of sea creature knitting patterns for sale on her Etsy shop.

I'm partial to the anglerfish. These fish belong to the order Lophiiformes and live in the deep sea where very little light penetrates. They're named after the glowing lure they use to entice unsuspecting prey into their mouth, like an angler (fisherman) catches fish.

Also the nudibranch pattern looks a lot like their colorful real life sea slug counterparts. Nudibranch means 'naked gills' and refers to the feathery gills you see coming out of their backs.

p.s. The 100th post on this blog!


26 September 2008

Plant cell cross stitch

I had an entry a while back about a plant cell pattern I designed, cross stitched, and turned into a pin. Looks like I wasn't the only person to think of recreating plant cell diagrams using cross stitch. Double X Geek has a more detailed design, complete with labels for the organelles! (via Craft)


17 September 2008

Netflix Origami

I'm a Netflix subscriber, and I have lots of front flaps from the DVD mailers lying around my house. Usually, they turn into grocery lists and notes to myself, but now I can fold them into fun shapes thanks to Netflixorigami.com.


15 September 2008

Glass insect sculptures

Wow. Wesley Fleming makes very intricate insect sculptures out of glass. It was hard to pick one example pic, so check out his whole gallery here. (Via Craft)

Hercules Beetle.
Info from the artist/wikipedia:

"Native to the rain forests of Central and South America, their title is well deserved as they are one of the largest beetles known. This scarab beetle is most noted for its thoracic and cephalic horns, which can grow longer than the body of the beetle itself. This adaptation is primarily used during fights with other males.

The Hercules beetle is said to be the strongest creature on earth for its size, able to carry 80 times its own body weight."


07 September 2008

Seedless watermelon

Just saw this over on White Ninja Comics, "White Ninja is a Biotechnologist"


05 September 2008

Science tattoos, part III

I get a lot of traffic on this blog from people searching for tree of life tattoos, and noticed that my previous posts about science tattoos had broken links.

As it turns out, Carl Zimmer's blog The Loom is now hosted at Discover, and the science tattoos have their own webpage!

There's also a new tree of life tattoo that was added since the last time I checked. Carl summarizes it much better than I could, so I'll direct you to the pic for a description.


04 September 2008

Seafood Watch

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, in addition to being my favorite aquarium, publishes a pocket guide called Seafood Watch to help consumers choose sustainable seafood.

"[Seafood Watch is] a program of Monterey Bay Aquarium designed to raise consumer awareness about the importance of buying seafood from sustainable sources. We recommend which seafood to buy or avoid, helping consumers to become advocates for environmentally friendly seafood."
They have guides for various regions in the United States, and while I was over on their website to download a newer guide, I saw you can now browse to the guide on your cell phone. Just log on to mobile.seafoodwatch.org and you'll be automatically directed to the latest online pocket guide.
Technology is cool.


Obama underwear

Off topic for this blog, but I had to share because it made me laugh.

Browsing for new clothes on the internet, I stumbled upon these "I'm Behind Obama" undies at Torrid.

Don't worry guys, a quick Google search revealed there are Obama underthings for men too.

McCain supporters have not gotten around to slapping his face on their underpants just yet. That's probably a good thing.


29 August 2008

Insect Jewelry

I just saw these beautiful insect jewelry pieces on Alphabettisphaghetti's Etsy shop.

The first is a butterfly necklace modeled after Parnassius apollo.

This damselfly necklace also caught my eye.


28 August 2008

Why Study Plants?

I previously linked to an old educational video about why we should study science. For your viewing pleasure, here's a much more modern video about why we should study plants, or at least why plants are so important. I especially liked the part about how plants are portrayed in film.

(via the Botanical Society of America)


27 August 2008

Cows face north-south

You might have heard the saying that moss mainly grows on the north side of trees. That "rule" is generally only true in the northern latitudes and dependent on the area's ambient light and moisture. But here's a new orientation rule in case you get lost, cows and deer tend to face magnetic north or south when grazing and resting.

I'm amazed at how people use Google applications these days, and in the case of this study German and Czech researchers examined over 8000 cows and almost 3000 deer satellite images using Google Earth. Researchers have previously shown that many animals have a magnetic sense, from fruit flies, birds, amphibians and fish. However, this is the first report of large mammals sensing magnetic fields.

For a more in depth summary, check out Scientific American's article here, or if you're not up to reading, they have a 60 second podcast too.


26 August 2008

Growing Better

I had to share this video as it stars a former grad student in my department, Chris Martine, who's now a professor at SUNY Plattsburgh. I thought this was a great introduction to oak identification with humor that reminds me of Alton Brown. Give it a watch.

(Martine, if you're reading this I want more of these!)


25 August 2008

Cave formations tee

On your next trip to a cave put on the Stalagmite vs. Stalactite tee available on Threadless. That way you just have to look down to remember that stalactites hold tight to the ceiling, while stalagmites are on the ground.


23 August 2008


I just read a really interesting interview with Jonathan Meiburg, a singer/songwriter in the band Shearwater, over at Scientific American.

I am always on the look out for songs that incorporate biology and there are many songs the mention birds. But in this case, birds are a common theme in Shearwater's songs because Meiburg is also an ornithologist and got a master's degree studying the biogeography of the Striated Caracara. Looking for the band's website, I also learned even the band's name is bird related, shearwaters are long winged seabirds.

You can listen to several Shearwater songs online at the band's website and also on last.fm.


Squid hats

I just saw these cute plush squid hats on ObeyMyBrain's Etsy shop. If I wasn't a poor graduate student, I'd buy one and go as a giant squid for Halloween. Or maybe a ship being attacked by a kraken.

I think PZ would like these.


22 August 2008

Evolving Darwin Play Set

Just in at Archie McPhee (my favorite source of all things tacky), the Evolving Darwin Play Set. A reproduction of the classic illustration showing the evolution of man, the man being Darwin in this case. This is being added to my mental list of potential holiday gifts.


21 August 2008

LeRoi Moore, 1961-2008

I just heard yesterday that the amazing saxophonist from Dave Matthews Band passed away August 19th due to complications from an ATV accident earlier this summer. I was a big DMB fan in college, and man, can they ever put on a live show. Your sax solos will be missed LeRoi.

So this post isn't completely off topic, here are the lyrics to the DMB song "Proudest Monkey" (courtesy of the DMB website), which hints at the evolution of humans from apes, among other things.

Proudest Monkey

Swing in this tree
Oh I am bounce around so well
Branch to branch,
limb to limb you see
All in a day's dream
I'm stuck
Like the other monkeys here
I am a humble monkey
Sitting up in here again
But then came the day
I climbed out of these safe limbs
Ventured away
Walking tall, head high up and singing
I went to the city
Car horns, corners and the gritty
Now I am the proudest monkey
you've ever seen
Monkey see, monkey do
Then comes the day
Staring at myself I turn to question me
I wonder do I want the simple,
simple life that I once lived in well
Oh things were quiet then
In a way they were the better days
But now I am the proudest monkey
you've ever seen
Monkey see, monkey do
Monkey see, monkey do


Moss Ring

I'm going to steal this one before Jessica at Moss Plants and More blogs about it. AdornJewelry on Etsy is selling rings that you can grow moss in and wear. This shop also features rings with faux moss and bird collage pendants. The rings do not come with growing tips or moss, but that way you can select your favorite local species.
(Via Craft)


10 August 2008

We Climb

I'm really enjoying the July song over at The Guild of Scientific Troubadours. It's called "We Climb" and it's about Ventastega curonica, a transitional fossil between fish and tetrapods. In case you missed it, check out the song and the article its based on over on Grant's site.


25 July 2008

Food Detectives with Ted Allen

I just saw an add on the Food Network tonight, they have a new show premiering Tuesdays at 9pm - Food Detectives with Ted Allen (it appears they're having a sneak preview Sunday at 11pm). You might remember Ted Allen as the foodie on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Popular Science Magazine provides the science. From what I've seen, it looks like a cross between Myth Busters and Good Eats (You can watch a trailer here). I'm looking forward to the first episode!


19 July 2008

Captain Planet

My post about the platypus t-shirt reminded me of the cartoon "Captain Planet and the Planeteers", as 5 kids from around the world would combine their powers to summon Captain Planet (with an awesome green mullet). Throughout the series they mainly fight villains that pollute the earth and give tips on how you can save the planet at the end of episodes.

I found the first Captain Planet episode over on Youtube and in it the villain starts drilling for oil in a wildlife sanctuary which looks to be in Alaska, given the wildlife. Despite being made in 1990, this sounds a lot like President Bush's desire to look for oil in Alaska. I'm sure most of the environmental issues dealt with in Captain Planet are still issues today, 10 years later.

(This is part 1/3, the other parts can be found here)

I remember watching episodes in school for teaching purposes, I hope they're still being used in some aspect today. Internet searches seem to indicate that Boomerang still airs episodes, but I don't get fancy cable channels like that, so here's hoping for a DVD box set. Although for younger kids, I still think Its a Big Big World is a wonderful introduction to science and exploration.


18 July 2008

Organ Embroidery

Sublime Stitching has a new pattern set called Vital Organs. You can stitch up intestines, brains, even a uterus.
(Now to work on my embroidery skills...)


17 July 2008

Platypus Tee

The genome of the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) was published in May of this year and made quite the stir in the news (here and here for example) as it seems they've found genes shared by reptiles, birds, and mammals. I just saw this tee over at Snorgtees.com - a tribute to the platypus genome and crime fighting cartoons.


18 June 2008

Science T-shirts

Amorphia Apparel allows you to show your love of science on your t-shirt. They have a whole line of shirts to poke fun at Intelligent Design supporters by depicting absurd controversies and the catch phrase "Teach the Controversy". Tempting, but I also like the one with a scientist riding a paramecium.

(via io9)


03 June 2008

Why Study Science?

This article and accompanying video (the film is worth watching just to see a very neat "juggling fly") about early science films made when film technology had just been invented (via Boing Boing) reminded me of the Prelinger Archives, a collection of old instructional and classroom films in the public domain.

I love the films you can watch in this archive, especially films about social etiquette told from a 1950s perspective. So I headed over today to see if they have any interesting films about biology and science.

I found this film, entitled "Why Study Science?" made in 1955 (you can either download or stream the film from their site, its 11 minutes long). In it, a father tells his son and daughter (children of the "atomic age") how they might use science in their everyday lives, even Betty the future homemaker. While this film is obviously dated, the father does have one monologue that I think is especially relevant to today, with the upcoming elections. When his son asks why he should study science even if he isn't going to become an astronaut, the dad responds with:

"You're still a citizen with the power to vote. Living in a scientific age we need citizens who know enough about science to make intelligent decisions about what they do. We use science to prolong life, to increase security and happiness. But it can also be used for destruction. Are we going to use it constructively to promote peace and give the world freedom from want? It will be up to you, and you too."


27 May 2008

House plants vs. toxins

Good Magazine has published a chart outlining common sources for 3 household chemical compounds (trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene) and the houseplants that naturally detoxify them from the air.

I'm not sure how each plant species actually accomplishes this detoxification (perhaps I should hunt down their vague sources) but I love the graphic design of this chart. I also think that maybe I should move the Philodendron from my bedroom to my living room that contains several IKEA particle board containing furniture pieces.

(Via Boing Boing)


21 May 2008

Flying Spaghetti Monster Brooch

The Flying Spaghetti Monster was the creation of Bobby Henderson back when the Kansas school board was first considering introducing Intelligent Design along with evolution in the classroom. You can read his original letter here. Since then the FSM has become a cultural icon to bring attention to the ridiculousness of presenting non-scientific alternatives to evolution.

So I created a Flying Spaghetti Monster brooch in His likeness, complete with noodly appendage and two tasty meatballs. He is made with oven bake clay, two button eyes, felt backing, and a 1 in. bar pin.


18 May 2008

Green Porno Online

I blogged previously about Green Porno, a new series of short films, starring Isabella Rossellini, about insects (also a worm, snail) and how they copulate. Sundance now has them all online, go here to check them out. I haven't watched them all yet, but "Earthworm" and "Bee" are pretty fascinating and a little disturbing all at the same time. In other words, they're awesome.


On a rainy Sunday afternoon

Here are two things to check out on this gloomy Sunday courtesy of the Craft Magazine Blog.

Fold away your troubles and make a origami lily, the step by step directions can be found here.

Also take a look at these neat robot animals made from recycled electronic parts. The artist, Ann Smith, has a whole gallery of animals over on her website.


16 May 2008

Plush evolution

I just stumbled upon Fur Will Fly's shop on Etsy which has lots of cute science-y plush dolls, and "On the origin of plush..." caught my eye right away. As their creator says, "This is an evolving family of 4 plushies, each one slightly more developed than the last. (But please treat them all equally)."