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Cynthia McKelvey
Oberlin Ohio

Interesting things from an overly-curious science nerd.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Comment by Cynthia McKelvey in MDMA and "Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trials"

Thanks! It's good to be back (again haha). It's definitely hard finding the time to write if you're fully employed elsewhere! I'd love to hear from Donna, but I'm not longer at UF so maybe you coul. . .Read More
Apr 30, 2013, 1:10pm
Comment by Brian Krueger, PhD in MDMA and "Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trials"

Great to see you again!  I know I've had a hard time finding the time to continue writing with everything going on.  You know, one of the scicomm people that ran the internet outreach at UF gradu. . .Read More
Apr 29, 2013, 3:34pm
Comment by Cynthia McKelvey in Salty Penguins Filter Salt Out Their Nose

Hi Dan, Sorry it took me so long to reply to your comment. I actually didn't even see it for quite some time. I did do some research though, and it turns out that the fluid within the cavit. . .Read More
Apr 09, 2012, 12:46pm

This is fascinating! But where does the non-salty fluid come from (or START from)? It can't be the blood stream... . . .Read More
Mar 16, 2012, 2:55pm

Thanks! Haha yeah I was wondering if that first sentence could have been worded more clearly. Although I think I look better on my camera phone than I do IRL, but maybe that's because of the poor r. . .Read More
Mar 03, 2012, 7:15pm
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For over two decades, Shark Week on Discovery Channel has been raising awareness of one of the ocean's most mysterious and powerful predators. Discovery originally started Shark Week with the purpose to dispel myths about the dangers of sharks, and to heighten the public's respect for the creatures. However, this year, many fans have felt outraged that Discovery may be straying further away from the original purpose of Shark Week. This year, Discovery unveiled the faux-documentary, Megalodon: The Monster Shark That Lives.

Megalodon, for the record, are definitely, absolutely extinct. They were super-sized sharks that once roamed the oceans some 2 million years ago.

Relative size of Megalodon (red and grey) vs. human. Source.
The Discovery special, on the other hand, suggested an alternative. Megalodon still roams the oceans, somewhere off the coast of South Africa. The documentary looked and seemed like any other documentary about real life events (however fantastic.) It convinced 70% of viewers that Megalod . . . More
Views: 4014 | Comments: 0
This article is being published here with permission from The Synapse. It originally appeared in the Spring 2013 edition of The Synapse at Oberlin College.



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Views: 5119 | Comments: 2
Last by Cynthia McKelvey on Apr 30, 2013, 1:10pm
Last summer, I became inspired to write an article about the potential benefits of the club drug, MDMA, otherwise known as Ecstasy or Molly. The blog post got turned into an article for my alma mater's science magazine, The Synapse, and was published a few months ago. With permission, I am cross-posting it here.


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To many who read this blog, Notes of Ranvier is a title that probably evokes no thoughts of science or history. There is a backstory to the name, however, and a reason why I chose it as the title.

Notes of Ranvier is meant to be a play on words referring to the nodes of Ranvier, anatomical structures in certain types of neurons that have a myelin sheath. Every neuron has a long projection called an axon that transmits electrical signals to other neurons. Around the axons of some neurons is the myelin sheath, a fatty tissue that insulates the axon like plastic around a copper wire. Electricity can't travel though myelin, so there are even gaps between the sheath where the neuron is exposed and electrical currents can be propagated down the axon. These gaps were discovered by French scientist, Louis-Antoine Ranvier (pronounced rahn-vee-yeh), and thus bear his name as Ranvier's nodes or the nodes of Ranvier.

When you learn about Ranvier's nodes in class, not a lot of attention is paid to how they were discovered or why they have Ranvier's name instead of some other scientist. The treatment of the subject is far more along the lines of, "these exist, this is what they do, moving on." But the question still gnaws, who was Ranvier? How did . . . More
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Hey everyone! I just wanted to write this to explain my absence.

In the last few weeks I left my job at the lab and decided to move back home to Ohio. I did this because I wanted more time to focus on what I really want to do, which is to write about science. The first step in that process, after the move, was to attend the science writer's workshop in Santa Fe, NM. I learned a lot there and came home feeling renewed and inspired. If you are reading this and are interested in getting into science writing yourself, I highly recommend you click that link above and apply to go to the workshop next year.

Over the next year I would like to write a lot more, but hopefully write for publications as well as here on this blog. So I'll be coming back with actual stories and new posts soon! I'm hoping to revise some of my older posts to make them better, too. If you want to stay up to date with me, follow me on twitter @NotesOfRanvier. I'll also be making a page on Facebook soon, too. So be on the look out!

Here are some photos from Santa Fe:



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Views: 3606 | Comments: 2
Last by Cynthia McKelvey on Apr 09, 2012, 12:46pm
The Venture Brothers season 1, episode 5, via [adult swim]
Why yes, penguins do have an organ that converts sea water into fresh water! Except it's not an organ, it's a gland. And it doesn't directly convert sea water to fresh water, it filters salt from the blood.
Hm, maybe I should start from the beginning.
First of all, this organ/gland/whatever that Dean is talking about is called the supraorbital gland, and it's something all marine birds have. Basically any mammal or bird that is going to have to drink sea water to quench thirst is going to need this gland.
Normally, salt that we ingest is absorbed into the blood stream, filtered out by the kidneys, and secreted in urine. However, the penguin's small kidneys can only filter out enough salt to create urine that's about 1/3 the concentration of sea water. If the blood is still too salty, then water must be taken from other tissues to dilute it, and this quickly leads to dehydration.
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Views: 2080 | Comments: 2
Last by Cynthia McKelvey on Mar 03, 2012, 7:15pm
That simulation of reality is the only thing you've ever interacted with, it's not that the real world isn't out there--it is--but you've never been there. You've only ever interacted with this simulation of reality that's put together from sparse information from the outside world and the rest is essentially confabulated, just like that blindspot is a confabulation of sorts. . . . More
Views: 3257 | Comments: 2
Last by Italie on Feb 24, 2012, 9:40am
Carolyn McGraw In the center, the unmanipulated photo. With the less cute manipulated photo to the left, and the cute one to the right. . . . More
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The primary visual cortex (V1) highlighted in yellow. The bottom view is from a mid-section of the brain, the top view is from the outside. In both views, your eyes would be on the left. Source. . . . More
Views: 1913 | Comments: 2
Last by Cynthia McKelvey on Dec 19, 2011, 9:50am
Yes, really. On the left is the skull of a woodpecker, where the hyoid can be seen extending up from behind the skull. On the right labeled (b) is the woodpecker hyoid bone by itself. . . . More
Views: 6339 | Comments: 2
Last by rich on Dec 31, 2011, 9:28pm
Happy holidays, everyone! It's a time of eating lots of delicious food, spending time with friends and family, and celebrating long-held traditions. For many, it's also a time of finding their way back home, whether it's in the town where they grew up, or in the company of loved ones (or both). This also means that for many, it's a time of airports and cars and lots of frustrating travel. For us humans, navigating home involves making reservations, getting on a plane in one city and landing in another. Or it means climbing into the car, punching in an address in the GPS, and hitting the gas. But what does getting home mean for other animals? They don't have a GPS with a vaguely snarky voice to tell them which way to turn, nor do they have massive(ly disorganized) transportation hubs in major cities that quickly shuttle them back and forth to destinations. So what happens when you take an animal, put it somewhere where it's never been, and let it try and find its way home?

That's actually a pretty big question when it comes to animal navigation. Different animals have very different ways to navigate--for example, some use the position of the sun to orient themselves. Others can see polarized light, and use that to navigate home . . . More
Views: 1392 | Comments: 1
Last by Jordan Gaines on Nov 17, 2011, 8:54pm
:D . . . More
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