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Author: Lab Mom | Views: 41498 | Comments: 9
Last by Shawn Russell on May 23, 2013, 3:58am
I was trying to think back to my biggest lab mistake and although I have had quite a few minor mishaps (mis-loading lanes for a Western blot, not adding the right controls for a Q-RT-PCR) that lead to disastrous scientific outcomes (i.e. repeating weeks worth of sample acquisition), those mistakes aren't as entertaining as the one I have decided to feature.

Let me set the scene. I was working as a technician straight out of my undergrad. I had been with the lab for a few years and one of duties was autoclaving glassware, pipette tips etc. Simple grunt work.

Or so you would think.

During my tenure with this lab we actually relocated our lab space to a brand new building and a few weeks after moving in they installed brand new autoclaves for our department. Ooohh Ahhh. They were state of the art, brand new and shiny (no gross brown stains, nothing oozing out of the seams, no strange odors at start up) and they came pre-programmed with standard dry and wet runs. Pretty dummy proof.

Or so you would think.

I was actually excited to throw in my load of glassware and break in the virgin autoclave. I loaded the beakers and flasks into the . . . More
Author: JaySeeDub | Views: 32450 | Comments: 6
Last by JaySeeDub on Jan 09, 2012, 8:44pm
Food labeling is complicated. And confusing. For one thing, there is a lot of information on there, from calorie count to ingredients to calories per gram of fat. You almost need a science degree to start to understand it. Serving size, for example, isn’t helpful. On a bag of Doritos you’ll see that the serving size is 1oz (28g), and that there are about 9 servings in a bag. Now I have a kitchen scale. I advocate the use of a kitchen scale in cooking. But I, for one, am not going to pull out the scale when I want some chips to watch the Niners in week 2 of the NFL Playoffs. I don’t sit at home on a Saturday after the Costco run measuring out individual servings of pistachios and chips and peanuts and pretzels. I have other things to do. And yes, the new labels do approximate how many Doritos make up a serving, about 12, but I’m still not going to sit there and count out 12 chips per person per serving. Friends and family will think I finally fell off the deep end and have me committed.

But one of the big puzzles about the nutritional information is how it is calculated. Calories can be done quickly. Throw the items into a bomb calorimeter and burn them. Measure the increase in temperature and calculate the kJ of energy. Then convert those kJ to kcal. 4.184kJ = . . . More
Author: David Manly | Views: 9498 | Comments: 5
Last by Evie on Nov 27, 2010, 2:12pm
Plants never quite held an interest to me. I understood their vital roles in the ecosystem, I admired their beauty and their survival in the harshest of climates, and I spent a long time learning how they grow, evolve and reproduce.

But, they never were able to keep my interest compared to animals, which is why I studied zoology and not botany.

However, there are a few species of plants that I do like, and here they are:


From the family Droseraceae, these plants look and act in an interesting way. At first glance, they appear to have some dew on the ends of their long leaves. But, like most plants, looks can be deceiving - they are true killers.

The droplets of dew are not dew at all, but a sticky substance known as mucilage that will trap any unlucky insect that happens to be attracted to the glistening globs.

Once the insect touches down to sample the fake dew, the true marvel of the Sundew is revealed. The plant then contorts its tentacles to the centre of the leaf, and traps the insect with a barrage of sticky globs of mucilage.

Once the insect is cornered, there is no escape.

It is survival of the fittest at its best.

*This entry conta . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 8089 | Comments: 0
I am a New York City public high school Earth Science teacher. Before this, I devoted my life to the theater arts. These days, my audience consists of thirty-four tenth graders per class period from the neighborhoods of Brooklyn. To gain any inkling of their attention, I experimented with numerous tactics. I put on the mean face: I scolded, I scoffed- it didn't work. I began to pull out the tools of improvisation and character work that I utilized in my first career of acting, then mixed it with my over flowing enthusiasm for Earth Science. My classes became a science stand up routine, including improvised songs (the Attitude Song became quite a hit) a plethora of accents, and random impersonations (including Chewbacca) to suit the moment . Combine that with a serious love for science and behold- I am now the ultra-hyper Ms. Frizzle with questionable sanity. After being initially frightened, they began appreciating this approach: “Yo Miss- you make me hype... you make me want to learn”, regularly suggesting that I should host my own science show on television. So I decided to create my own channel, “Introducing Earth” on You Tube.

At around the same time, I was accepted into the Columbia University Research Fellowship Program for Science Teache . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 10798 | Comments: 41
Last by mamta on Feb 08, 2011, 5:14am
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I consider myself a skeptic, and I've often wondered how I can tie my skeptical bent with my interest in Psychology, while remaining true to the format of this blog. I don't like to sit here and write essays, nor do I like to sit here and push a particular agenda. I do like to sit down, ask a question, find an answer, and try to apply it.

And so, when last musing upon this topic, I realized that I'm in the field most capable of debunking such woo. Perhaps information, in and of itself, is useful - should you be confronted by one afflicted with an 'open mind' . Furthermore I'm on the side of light - Science! and so have special +1 debunking abilities. While the purveyors of Woo also lay claim to domain on the brain and mental abilities, we have replicability and statistical analysis.

Initially I thought this post would be a bit of fun. Poke around the old journals and find some acid-trip hypotheses and from the '7o's. Naturally I checked the 'peer review' box when searching...

Oh. Em. Gee.

I found this gem from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine:

Over decades, consciousness research has a . . . More
Author: Thomas Joseph | Views: 3661 | Comments: 7
Last by Thomas Joseph on Dec 14, 2010, 10:50am
So, now that Thanksgiving is over I've had to start decorating for Christmas. If I had my druthers, I'd decorate ... never ... or possibly on the 23rd or 24th, but the decision is not mine to make alone. So up into the attic I went, and down came all the wreaths, ornaments, stockings and holders, holiday DVDs and CDs, garland, and lights ... and the big artificial tree. This tree has seen much better days and so this is probably the last year it'll be used, but it's gotten me to thinking (yah, scary thought). What is going to happen to that tree when I'm done with it, and what sort of environmental impact is it going to have?

Before I go any further though, I have to say that one of my favorite parts of last evening was breaking open my favorite Christmas CD of all time "Favorite Carols of Christmas" and listening to it. I've just completed ripping and adding it to my iPod, so I won't get stuck listening to all the cruddy Christmas music out there on the radio.

At any rate, I've gone around looking for information on the environmental impacts of artificial Christmas trees and come across a f . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 3418 | Comments: 3
Last by Sharmeen Omar on Feb 01, 2012, 10:01pm
A provocative aspect of the climate change debate is the impact that temperature changes have on species. In particular, people have used the beloved and majestic polar bear, Ursus maritimus, as a mascot for the negative impact of climate change. A few years ago, it wasn't known that global warming could affect the fundamental definition of the polar bears species.

Polar bears are closely related to grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) and it has long been known that these animals can interbreed, creating a rare hybridization of the polar bear and the grizzly bear (formally called Ursus arctos horribilis and more commonly referred to as a grolar).

This hybrid, though extremely rare, has occurred in captivity and has long been storied in arctic legends. In 1864 biologist, Clinton Hart Merriam, described an animal killed at Rendezvous Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada as "buffy whitish with a golden brown muzzle". A century later, Clara Helgason remembers a bear shot by hunters on Kodiak Island during her childhood in 1943 as "a large, off-white bear with hair all over his paws".

In April 2006, Jim Martell, a sport hunter from the United States, shot a grolar near on Banks Island. Martell had paid $50,000, for an official license and a guide to hunt p . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 3157 | Comments: 7
Last by LeStonga on May 09, 2011, 9:40am
Sean Marshall is a science communication practitioner living in Ireland. He produces and presents the Science Chat podcast and associated blog. He blogs and podcasts mainly on issues and topics related to science communication, education and outreach. He also writes (fiction) and plays electric guitar (noisily). Sean can be found on twitter as @arthurpdent42.

So many people, I mean soooo many people have been saying to me over the past few weeks (in Ireland - unsurprising as that's where I live) that how can people be talking about climate change and global warming when this year and last year we've had such snow as hasn't been seen in these parts for years. Of course, the fact that we're having some really cold weather with plenty of snow doesn't contradict global warming. Global warming is a climate change effect that can cause many types of weather anomaly, and an overall increase in global temperature doesn’t have to cause locally warmer weather, it’s a bit more complex than that, and you have to understand how climate relates to weather. . . . More
Author: Evie | Views: 2948 | Comments: 0
SpaceX has had an incredible mission. They completed the preliminary maneuvers near the ISS, and were cleared to go ahead and get close enough to the station for the robotic arm to be able to grab hold of it. This was all successfully done, and the Dragon Capsule was brought in to dock with the station, making history, by being the first ever commercial company to both fly to space and reenter Earth's atmosphere, and berth with the ISS. The mission will come to an end in several days, when the Dragon Capsule will be released from ISS, returned to Earth for a splash down landing in the ocean, and be recovered for reuse.

Success!!! The Falcon 9 launched successfully at 3:44am EST May 22nd. All systems were nominal, stage separation completed nominally, Solar arrays deployed successfully, and the Dragon capsule is now making its way toward the International Space Station. Stay tuned for more mission updates!

Way to go SpaceX!! This is the beginning of a new commercial era in space exploration.

*** Update - The launch was aborted at T-0.5 seconds, due to high chamber pressure in engine #5. Next launch window is May 22nd at 3:44am EST, and another window the following day, May 23rd 3:22am EST. Keep you posted on changes. ***

. . . More
Author: JaniceF | Views: 3330 | Comments: 18
Last by JaniceF on Apr 28, 2011, 4:26pm
Today I had a friend email me this link. It's a link to an April 21 2011 article in Nature called "The PhD Factory." The authors suggest that the world is facing unsustainable exponential growth of newly minted PhDs into a shrinking labour market and that it's time to stop and re-examine the system.

Credit: Nature
. . . More
Author: LaUra | Views: 2705 | Comments: 0
How has globalization impacted the spread of environmental information? So much information is available through the internet and social media. When messages can reach across the world in a matter of milliseconds, does this help or hinder the process of environmental change? Also, how has bringing about awareness through protests and activism changed?

The internet, petition websites, and the plethora if environmental websites allow everyday citizens (with a fast enough internet connection) to gain any type of information they desire. Websites like,, and allow people to become activists by either creating a petition or just by adding your signature to one. How much impact do these websites really have? Websites like these bring attention to people surfing the web by presenting issues and information that isn't found in mainstream media. They are also useful because they reflect the importance of some issues by how many people sign a petition or share it on a social media website. Petitions put pressure on people/organizations/b . . . More
Author: Lab Mom | Views: 2601 | Comments: 3
Last by 27 and a PhD on Feb 21, 2011, 10:15am
I have blogged about it before: I am a visual person. I love the beauty in science.

Frequently you see microscopy** featured as for its artisanship, but National Geographic has proven that the beauty in science goes beyond the microscopic.

Check out a few of the images in their list of the Best Science Pictures of 2010.

3D illustrations of HIV:

. . . More
Author: Brian Krueger, PhD | Views: 2491 | Comments: 4
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Oct 24, 2011, 8:40am
Here are the slides from the presentation I gave on Monday. We recorded a video, but I'm not sure how it turned out. I have a feeling the audio is going to be bad so I might just sit down and do it over again this weekend on my laptop.

Two of the slides are movies. The first is a clip from "Flock of DoDos" where some lady says scientists are horrible communicators and the other is the AARP shrimp on treadmills commercial.

. . . More
Author: LaUra | Views: 2248 | Comments: 4
Last by Suzanne on Jun 05, 2012, 10:01am
Hello! I'll begin by saying a little bit about me and my background, passions, and the type of writing you can expect through this weblog.

Here it goes: I graduated with my undergraduate degree in 2009 with three majors: biology, environmental science, and religion from Central Michigan University.Throughout college, I worked in a Plant Systematics laboratory as a research assistant doing lots of cool stuff, like scanning electron microscopy, field collecting, and a variety of laboratory techniques (DNA extractions, sequencing). College was my first introduction to the real world and for the first time, I was exposed to vastness of our current ecological crises. (I was focused on a lot of other things in high school.)

After graduating, I've had the opportunity to travel and hold several random jobs. I'm originally from Michigan, though I have also lived in Louisiana's bayou-region and on the sandy beaches of the Outer Banks (OBX) in North Carolina. Shortly after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, I was hired in as a "Gulf Response" Americorps VISTA member. Living about 1.5 hours southwest of New Orleans (in a small community adjacent to the spill), I certainly experienced "bayou culture" and a rich environment that is incredibly imperiled ( . . . More
Author: Lab Mom | Views: 2115 | Comments: 6
Last by Bryan on May 23, 2012, 12:14pm
Over on my personal blog I have been lamenting the fact I live in a 100 year old house and absolutely hate what a money pit it has become. To put in perspective how long ago 100 years really is, I looked up a few facts about life in 1905 (the year my money pit was built) .

"When this house was built Teddy Roosevelt was president, there were only 45 states in the Union, most people still drove a horse and buggy, and milk cost 14 cents per gallon. It was the age of the Victorians. Automobiles, the railroad, radio, the world series, airplanes and indoor plumbing were all in their infancy. Albert Einstein still hadn't finalized the theory of relativity, and William Bateson suggested the term "genetics" for the very first time. The average weekly salary was $12.98 and the average life expectancy was 47 years. Child labor and racial segregation were prevalent and women wouldn't be given the right to vote for another 15 . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 2211 | Comments: 14
Last by katie_phd on Mar 17, 2011, 9:57am
This week's guest blogger is Image Goddess who is a PhD Scientist with a multidisciplinary background. She has a degree in a field within the biological sciences and is currently enjoying life after graduate school. She blogs at


When you're in graduate school, especially in the biological sciences, your life is your dissertation work. You live it. You breathe it. If you're like most doctoral students your dissertation work is everything. You are in the standard doctoral student mold created by the system you have to go through to get that coveted degree. And because your whole life is focused around getting your degree, after several years all you can think about is getting done and moving on. But you're often afraid to think about it. Where are you going to move on to? That's the big question. You've spent years dedicating yourself to obtaining this degree, to your research, but now what? And frequently, you don't want to think about it un . . . More
Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 2563 | Comments: 4
Last by sarah on Dec 14, 2011, 12:59pm

Sir, I wanna buy these shoes for my mama, please. It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size. Could you hurry, sir? Daddy says there's not much time...

This little gem by New Song permeates the airwaves each year around this time, igniting tears and snickers alike in its listeners. We all know why the man agrees to buy the shoes for the boy—I mean, "his clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe." But how much would he be willing to part with for this anonymous child—$20? $30? $100? According to a study, the sadder the man, the more he would be willing to pay.
. . . More
Author: Thomas Joseph | Views: 1989 | Comments: 12
Last by Thomas Joseph on Jan 12, 2011, 2:11pm

Coruscant - an ecumenopolis

What are sci-fi movies trying to tell us with images, and themes, like the above? The term ecumenopolis comes from the combination of the two Greek words ecumene and polis -- in other words, a city made of the whole world. It is featured in Star Wars (as an example) as the planet of Coruscant (pictured above). Watching the movie one may note that there is no visible greenery on the planet, no visible water, and even major landscapes are dwarfed or have been wiped out by buildings. It is a theme that has been mentioned numerous times in science fiction, and a listing can be found in Wikipedia. While it seems like a thing of fantasy, the view of North America from space at night suggests otherwise (see below).

An ecumenopolis in the making?

My thoughts turned to such notions as I was reading the following article, which is definitely worthy of a read. The article discusses the issue of mesopredator release, which is when small- to mid-sized predators are released from the pressures of their own predation by large-sized predators. Since they are no longer pre . . . More
Author: JaySeeDub | Views: 1898 | Comments: 8
Last by JaySeeDub on Jul 12, 2011, 6:05pm
It was autumn. The air was crisp and cool. Leaves were in the midst of their transformation from vibrant green to red, orange and yellow. The brown would come later. The walkways and cobblestones of Montmartre were slick with damp.  The soles of our cheap shoes couldn’t find much purchase on the stairs of Rue Foyatier, so we clung to the wet handrail. My gloves would smell like rusty metal for weeks after we returned home. The street lights made the ground shine, like some magical place. Dorothy’s Yellow Brick Road and Oz had nothing on the magic and majesty of Paris and her damp slick streets in autumn. You couldn’t help but hum along with Edith Piaf, “The falling leaves / Drift by the window / The autumn leaves / All red and gold.”

It was our last night together in Paris. I would remain for another week. M’s sister was heading home. The other two members of our erstwhile quartet, whom I’ll refer to as D and A, were heading to Nice. A pale, coke bottle lensed imitation of Jake Barnes and Hemingway’s Lost Generation in The Sun Also Rises.  Reservations made and held at a brasserie we’d found earlier in our visit. The white linen tablecloths, waiters in tuxedoes and copious amounts of vin ordinaire paired with the incredible food had endeared the place . . . More