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.