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.