February 7, 2012

The delightful dung cannon.

Well I've posted about a few people who blend science and art, but I like to do it too! So here's a little drawing I did of one of the fastest living things on the planet... the fungus Pilobolus, colloquially known as the "Dung cannon", which shoots its capful of spores at mind-boggling speeds. I drew this as a card submission for the Phylomon project - think Pokemon meets biology/ecology education.

I "drew" my inspiration from two places:
1) Time-lapse photography videos of Pilobolus crystallinus made at Cornell University (like this one here).
2) The PLoS One paper that documented Pilobolus keinii expelling its spores using super high-speed photography (watch this awesome video of it).

According to the authors, the spore-expulsion speeds documented for P. keinii and the 3 other fungi (Ascobolus immersus, Podospora anserina, and Basidiobolus ranarum) are the fastest accelerations (of any kind... bird, cheetah... rocket ship?) known in nature!

December 28, 2011

Happy accidents, in Art and Science

Blobs of ink spill over the page.. and out of the shadowy pool emerge visions of tubing and syringes, veination, neurons, and pulsing organs. Vesna Jovanovic described a while back how she came to create her Pareidolia series of images, like the one below, out of randomly spilled ink.

Art and science both usually require a process of study, synthesis, and imagination to generate great new ideas - visionary new hypotheses, experiments, or masterpieces. But the haphazard nature of Vesna's inkblot creations remind me of another way that great scienctific discoveries have oft been achieved - by happy accident.

Most people have heard the story of penicillin's discovery. Absent-minded scientist (Alexander Fleming) leaves bacterial cultures out unprotected, returns to find a fungus has invaded, surrounded by a bateriocidal ring of death. But there is also the story of Constantin Fahlberg, who discovered the sweet properties of saccharin by contaminating his meal with hands still dirty from the lab (presumably then returning to the lab to taste his coal tar extracts and figure out which one was so delicious). And Percy L. Spencer was set on the path to create the modern microwave oven after a magnetron (a component found at the heart of radars) melted the chocolate bar in his pocket. And many more...

Read more:
discovery top 10 accidental inventions
popsci top 10 accidental science
Vesna Jovanovic

October 4, 2010

Science-Based Medicine

For those with ADD, the condensed-soup version of my previous post.

Read this blog:

Science-Based Medicine (note: should there be any other kind?)

So, I have fallen off the horse that I once so valiantly declared I would ride fast and true... the horse of science journalism. Maybe I haven't fallen off, so much, but taken a detour called grad school. And while I have never before been bombarded with so many amazing ideas, ripe fodder for my blog, I have also never been so busy.

My dilemma is this: I refuse to write about something (usually a current popular and controversial science/health issue) without doing sufficient research on the subject that I feel I can write an educated, unbiased, and hopefully enlightening commentary. This usually takes me a long time... and extra-curricular time has been in short supply lately.

So let me present you with a blog that does just what I would like to, and that has the man-power and credentials to back itself up. Science-Based Medicine is a blog written by a number of physicians and scientists, who identify controversies in health and medicine (eg. vaccine safety, alternative medicine), and thoroughly research the subjects and do an excellent job of detangling the myths and pseudoscience from the well-founded science. To be fair, the odd article does exhibit the author's contempt for pseudoscience and crankery, but in the end, the facts speak for themselves.

Props to the crew of SBM... I wish everyone would read this blog!


July 21, 2010

Monkeying around at the beach

Feeling the summer heat? Heading to the beach? Bringing your favourite cool, refreshing beverages with you? Watch out for the alcoholic monkeys!

As you can see from the video, alcoholism isn't unique to humans. Maybe these guys should be the next organism I study for my fetal alcohol exposure research... any excuse to do a research project in the Caribbean!

January 30, 2010

To boldly go where most young Ontarions have gone before...

I have recently become the proud owner of an Honours Bachelor's of Science degree in Biomedical Toxicology. And with this degree in hand (or on the wall), I have traveled from Southern Ontario to the mecca of the Canadian youth... British Columbia.

But, unlike many, I have not come to pick fruit or live in a camper van on the west coast of the Island, while the spray of the ocean tickles my face and the breeze of freedom tousles my hair. Here, at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, I have begun my Master's of Science degree in Medical Genetics. Here, I hope to bring new light into the fields of epigenetics and fetal programming. And here, I hope to conduct research that, partnered with the various hospitals and research centres in Vancouver, will contribute something translatable and tangible to diagnostic or therapeutic medicine.

Here, I begin my next adventure in science!

July 23, 2009

A Short History of Medicine

A Short History of Medicine: "Doctor, I have an ear ache."

2000 B.C. - "Here, eat this root."
1000 A.D. - "That root is heathen, say this prayer."
1850 A.D. - "That prayer is superstition, drink this potion."
1940 A.D. - "That potion is snake oil, swallow this pill."
1985 A.D. - "That pill is ineffective, take this antibiotic."
2000 A.D. - "That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root!"

What are we going to be laughing at in the future about today's medicine?

From: Medical Jokes and Milestones of Medicine