Posts Tagged ‘biology’

Alcoholic art, crystals of liquor

// July 12th, 2011 // 2 Comments » // Just for Fun, Science Art

So it’s appropriate that I’m a little bit tipsy while writing this.

Alcohol under a microscope! That’s today’s post. BevShots take photographs of alcohol crystallized on a slide, shot under a polarized light microscope. It can take up to four weeks for the alcohol to dry completely on the slide. It’s art, distilled. And quite magnificent.

Margarita

Mmm margarita. And do you like pina colada?

Pina colada

What pretty rum. I think the citric acid helps. Anyone for a pint?

English oatmeal stout

Bevshots sell the pics (there’s heaps) as metallic prints, on canvas or as merchandise – like hip flasks, for example. Look, I’m not big on promoting items, but these would make a sweet gift for a 21st birthday. They’re stunning, and only $28. It’s a nice personal touch if you know their favourite drink.

Oh, and vodka shot glasses! So cool…

Vodka shot glasses

There’s even an iPhone app, so you can pick your poison and see the bevshots version. I imagine this will increase your popularity and attractiveness with every drink. Kind of like beer glasses.

Isn’t this just the best mix of science, alcohol and art? They should be paying me for this kinda publicity (feel free to send me a gift, guys!)

A Gingerbread Laboratory

// January 19th, 2011 // Comments Off on A Gingerbread Laboratory // Just for Fun, Science at Home

Thought I’d share some pictures of this awesome gingerbread laboratory my dad made me for Christmas.

Gingrebread Laboratory Front

It’s a science and research lab. Unfortunately some of the roof caved in during transit.

Gingerbread Laboratory Top

The lab comes complete with helipad. You can see some of the decorations inside through the “sky light.”

Gingerbread Laboratory Skylight

Royal icing, smarties, jelly beans, mint leaves, marshmallows and licorice allsorts decorate the interior while icing sinks ensure proper hygiene. Here’s the view from the front door.

Gingerbread Laboratory Front Door

OpenLab10 – best of the blogs for 2010

// December 16th, 2010 // Comments Off on OpenLab10 – best of the blogs for 2010 // Science Communication

Last years edition of OpenLab

Quick note and heads up to check out OpenLab10, which has published a list of some of the best blogging efforts from 2010. A good bunch in anyone’s book!

From this epic list they will narrow down to a mere 53, which will be published in an anthology on actual REAL paper, like the kind you see on TV.

Me own blog is listed for two posts. Firstly, How aqua regia saved Nobel Prize medals from the Nazis, a fiction based on a true science story and lively tale of chemistry trickery (chemitrickery) and bravery. Secondly may favourite monotreme, the weird, the wonderful, the Platypus. A poisonous, egg laying mammal with ten sex chromosomes.

I would invite you (nay, beg you) to vote for me, but it’s not that kind of thing so you’re off the hook.

But if you want to read some truly amazing examples of scientific writing, check out the submissions for OpenLab10! (Bookmark me first so you can come back later. You have me on RSS, right? Just checking.)

Happy reading!

New MolBio Carnival is up!

// December 7th, 2010 // Comments Off on New MolBio Carnival is up! // Jibber Jabber, Science Communication

Ahoy there,

A quick note to send you over to me good mate Lab Rat, who blogs regularly about the amazing world of microorganisms and provides insights into life as a lab rat. She’s the host for the latest MolBio Carnival, a collection of the best blogs on molecular biology about.

I’m honoured to have been included on the list, although I blogged about something a little bit bigger (the marsupial joeys of the last post.)

Check it out here, and enjoy the picture at the bottom!

Platypus. Poisonous, egg laying mammal with ten sex chromosomes

// October 13th, 2010 // 7 Comments » // Recent Research, Science Communication, Sex and Reproduction, The Realm of Bizzare

Platypus

Image by Urville Djasim

Ah, the elusive platypus. The water dwelling animal with fur, webbed feet and a beak. It may just be the strangest animal on the planet. Not only does it look weird, it’s poisonous, can sense electricity, lays eggs and secrete milk through their skin, and have an excessive number of sex chromosomes.

It’s poisonous.
It is SERIOUSLY poisonous. The males have poison barbs under their front feet which they mainly use during the spring breeding season. One scratch from these babies and you will be in terrible agony.

My friend studied platypuses (yes, that’s the plural I checked) in honours and her colleague injected himself with platypus venom in the name of science. For months he had excruciating pain for months which did not respond to any painkillers, including morphine. Because of this quality, platypus venom could help scientists develop drugs which work differently to our current repertoire.

Research into platypus venom is lacking because it is hard to come across samples. But just last month researchers identified 83 possible venom genes using DNA extracted from an active venom gland. Some of the genes are similar to those in snakes, pufferfish and starfish. Now the platypus hardly evolved from a starfish. Instead, it’s an example of convergent evolution, traits that arise separately in different species and give a selective advantage. Illustrious journal Nature says platypus venom confirms the convergent evolution theory for venom. (Research paper Whittington CM, & et al (2010). Novel venom gene discovery in the platypus. Genome biology, 11 (9) PMID: 20920228)

Electroreceptor bill
Sharks use electroreception to find prey by sensing the electricity animals have in their body. Monotromes (mammals that lay eggs) including platypuses and echidnas, are the only mammals with the same ability, and the platypus is the strongest. Closing its eyes and nose when it dives, the platypus relies almost entirely on electrolocation and touch to find the tasty crustaceans it snacks on. Sharks and platypuses are hardly related, making this another yet another example of convergent evolution.

Electroreceptors are located in rows on the bill, which might help it find prey by noticing which receptors pick up the electricity first. We do the same thing with our ears, hearing noises at slightly different times tells us which direction the sound is coming from. When the platypus hunts, it moves its bill side to side, which might reveal how far away the prey is. It’s similar to how pigeons bob their head for depth perception.

Image by TwoWings

Laying eggs
A female platypus has two ovaries, but only the left one is functional. Why? We don’t know.

Eggs spend 28 days developing inside their mother’s body and 10 days outside. The babies (often called puggles) are born with teeth, which drop out as they mature.

The mother produces milk, but she doesn’t have teats or nipples. Instead puggles lick or nibble on her skin to drink, gaining nutrients and probably an immune system. Living in mud, platypuses are born with no immune system, making them worse off than human babies which have immature immune systems at birth and rely on colostrum to boost their protection.

Sex chromosomes
Since the platypus genome was sequenced in 2008, we know a bit about these strange sex chromosomes. We know that they are more similar to birds than mammals, suggesting that our own mammal-like reptile ancestors might have had sex chromosomes like the birds of today. But there’s one big difference that makes the platypus unique.

They have ten sex chromosomes. Males have five X and five Y. Females have ten X. Humans, in fact, almost all mammals have only two. During platypus sperm production, the sex chromosomes pair up as X1Y1, X2Y2, X3Y3, X4,Y4, X5,Y5, so they can split evenly to make sperm that have 5X or 5Y. Phew. After all that, I’m surprised the males have any energy left for mating.






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