Saturday, December 24, 2011

Science Saturday: Christmas Edition

Merry Christmas from this science nerd to you!!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Science Saturday 1.8: Higgs Boson, Tiny Frogs, & More

*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*

A very common procedure in biological research is western blotting, a technique used to transfer samples to a membrane and use antibodies to detect specific proteins from the sample.  Well a couple weeks ago, I successfully completed my very own western blot from some of our research samples.  The dark bands show detected protein in each of the 4 sample lanes.  It may not be a textbook image, but I'm happy that I was actually able to see something (after a couple failed attempts).
My very first western blot!
A couple days ago, researchers at CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research) announced that two ongoing experiments independently observed what could be hints of the Higgs boson, a hypothetical particle predicted by physicists to be the basis for the Standard Model of particle physics.  If discovered, the Higgs boson would complete this model, confirming how particles obtain their mass.  If never found, it would completely change the way we understand physics.  This infographic sums it up quite well:
Physicists have searched for it for years, but what is the Higgs boson supposed to do, exactly? A LiveScience infographic explains.

Meet Paedophryne dekot (A,B) and Paedophryne verrucosa (C,D).  At 8-9 millimeters in length, they are the world's tiniest frogs found in Papua New Guinea.
Featured microbe: Aspergillus flavus
This fungus is a common problem with stored grains.  It produces aflatoxin, a dangerous toxic compound that when accumulated after ingestion can cause liver cancer.  It is also associated with aspergillosis, a severe lung infection.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Shout Out to LvB!

Today marks the presumed birthday of one a composer near and dear to my heart - Ludwig van Beethoven.  Just like every young pianist, 10 year old me loved Fur Elise.  Just like every piano performance major, I became familiar with all of the 32 piano sonatas and their impact on shaping the romantic era from the classical era (your music history lesson for the day).  Just like every music lover, I believe Beethoven's music is passionate, emotional, and transcendental.

I thought I would share one of the pieces I performed for my senior recital - Fantasia on an Ostinato by John Corigliano, a well known contemporary composer.  This particular piece explores the famous rhythmic motive of the 2nd movement of Beethoven's 7th Symphony in a minimalist style.  It starts off with one driving note, builds to a harmonic wash of sound in the middle, and ends with a quote of the symphonic theme near the end.  It's about 12 minutes long, so grab a cup of tea, snuggle by the fire, and enjoy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I survived another semester of graduate school!!  Final exams are over and I checked my grades today - this is by far the best semester I've ever had.  I was 1 point away from getting an A in one of my classes, which means I could've made a 4.0 for the first time in history!  But I'm very happy with my achievements this semester, and I am motivated to try and make a 4.0 in the spring for my last and final semester!

I did a little blog makeover - the right sidebar now contains image links to my shop, as well as an archive of all Science Saturday posts (I know, I know...I haven't posted one in a while.  There will be one this Saturday, so stay tuned!).

Speaking of my shop, have you checked it out yet?  If you have some last minute Christmas shopping to do, consider buying handmade!  If you place your order by this weekend, I will throw in a bonus gift for FREE - cool, huh?!  I won't tell you what it have to order to find out ;)

2 out of 5 grad school applications are submitted, and hopefully I will be done with the others before Christmas.  My future is in God's hands and I can't wait to find out what is going to happen with my academic endeavors!  I need to not stress about it and know that the Lord will reveal his plan for me in HIS timing.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11

Our church Christmas concert is this Sunday night, and I'm quite excited.  Matt has worked so hard with the choir, and I think the program is really well done.  I'm so proud of my hubby for using his musical talents to serve in ministry.  I think he has really inspired the choir members and built their confidence to use their talent to praise the Lord.

Christmas is almost here, and we get to go HOME!!  After church on Christmas Day, we will hop into our rental car and make the lovely 900 mile drive to WI so we can spend a couple weeks with family and friends.  I miss the Midwest so much.

Matt and I have spent the day crocheting (yes, my husband crochets, too) and watching movies (so far we've watched Apocalypse Now (he had never seen it!) and Star Trek...and it's time to pick out what's next.  Have a great evening!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Happy birthday to me! I don't know why, but 27 feels a LOT older than 26 did...maybe because it is that much closer to 30? Eek! Honestly, I don't really mind the increasing number of my age because I still act like I am a five-year old :) I'm just happy to be living my life and thankful for all God has blessed me with. Let's see if I can come up with some random facts from each of my years on this Earth...

1 - Enjoying the simple life - eat. sleep. poop.
2 - First fell in love with music while watching Pavarotti sing on PBS.
3 - Being an only child is great! So much attention.
4 - Manika was born and I am loving being a big sister!
5 - Love modeling and want to grow up to be Miss America.
6 - Being a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle would be cooler than being a model.
7 - Nathan was born and I love having a baby brother!
8 - Cried tears of joy upon watching the opening scene in Beauty and the Beast - soooo excited to see that movie!
9 - Overachieving "Chum" in AWANA at our new church. (I still know all the songs and pledges by heart!!)
10 - My love of science begins after dissecting a cow's eye and a worm in school. Not to mention our teacher was a real life Ms. Frizzle.
11 - Excelling in piano lessons - not loving having to "perform" at family gatherings.
12 - My love for Star Wars blossoms.
13 - My favorite musicals are Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.
14 - I want to be an Egyptologist and mummified an old Barbie doll with toilet paper and "buried" her in a "tomb" in the crawl space in the basement.
15 - Cast in the first of many musicals.
16 - I play a mean game of Mario Party on N64. (Ballon Burst, Crazy Cutter, and Face Lift are the best mini-games)
17 - Kopp's Custard, Taco Bell, or McDonalds are consumed daily.
18 - High school is over, off to Lawrence University!
19 - Finally get my drivers license.
20 - I fall in love with Brahms.
21 - I unknowingly meet my future husband, Matthew James Mohns :)
22 - Jack Bauer is my hero.
23 - Depressed and stressed but blessed.
24 - A Bachelors degree in Music AND a Bachelors degree in Biology = unemployed college graduate
25 - Love being a wife!
26 - I'm moving to Mississippi?!
27 - I want to be a scientist when I grow up...let's make that happen.

Yeps...I've lived a quirky blessed life!! Here's for many more fun years to come!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Makin' a list...

Ah, December!  In a couple weeks we celebrate my 27th birthday and a couple weeks after that and we celebrate Christmas.  Which means I get to fawn over neat stuff that I don't really need but like to look at in hopes that someone will bequeath these items to me.

2011 has been the year of geeky T-shirts for me.  So what a way to end the year than to get some of the awesome apparel offered at (Isn't Ashley Eckstein aka Ahsoka Tano super cute?)

It has also been a year of new beginnings for what is hopefully going to be a wonderful journey towards a science career.  So how about some science books by one of my favorite science writers, Carl Zimmer?

November brought forth a bunch of new video games, which Matt and I WILL possess by the end of the year...

Or how about some gift cards for some craftypants stores?

But truly, my most favorite gift this December will be getting to go home to WI for a couple weeks to spend time with family!!  I miss them so!!!

What is on your wish list this Christmas?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins!!

This is the first Thanksgiving that Matt and I won't be with our families.  It's very sad, since Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays!  We were planning on just going out on a nice date to celebrate, but some of our church family has invited us to celebrate with them tomorrow!!

I wanted to make some pumpkin chocolate chip muffins to bring to their house, and thought I should share the recipe here!
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup applesauce*
2 eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour**
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

*I use applesauce instead of oil to make it "healthier", but you can use vegetable oil if you like! 
**If you use self-rising flour, just omit the baking powder, baking soda, and salt


1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2) Grease muffin pan or use muffin liners.

3) In a large bowl, mix the sugar, oil, eggs,pumpkin and water.

4) In another bowl, mix together the baking flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.

5) Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir in the chocolate chips.

6) Fill your muffin cups 2/3 full with batter and bake for 20 minutes.

7) Remove from the oven, let cool, and ENJOY!! I dare you to eat just one...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Science Saturday 1.7: Giant Amoebas, Light Metal, & More

*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*

Science Saturday is back!  Sorry for the two week hiatus - real life got in the way.  To start off, if you haven't seen this amazing footage of Earth from NASA's International Space Station, you are in for a treat.  Between the natural wonder of the Aurora Borealis and the man-made wonder of city lights, our small rock in the big universe is a beautiful place to call home.

Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceonography at UC San Diego have identified xenophyophores, giant amoebas, down at the unexplored depths of the Mariana Trench.  Individual cells were found as large as 4 inches, accustomed to survival in dark and cold waters (6.6 miles deep).  Further research can shed more light on understanding cellular life in extreme environments.

The world's lightest material has been developed by researchers at HRL Laboratories in CA.  This metal "micro-lattice" is 99.99% air, made up of hollow tubes 100 nanometers thick.  The material is 100 times lighter than Styrofoam, yet it can recover from compression exceeding 50% strain and high energy absorption.  Possible uses for this material include battery electrodes or shock energy damping.

Featured Microbe: Ebola virus
A member of the RNA virus family Filoviridae, Ebola virus was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire) in Africa.  The origin of the virus is still unknown, and outbreaks occur sporadically in humans and other primates.  The virus is spread via contact with blood or secretions of an infected person and causes hemorrhagic fever, a severe often-fatal disease.  There is currently no treatment for Ebola hemorrhagic fever.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Where's Mariel?

Hello, blogworld!  Sorry it's been a while.  Life is scurrying by and I feel like I'm barely keeping up.  I know some of you really miss the Science Saturday posts, and I promise, I have a lot of cool things bookmarked - I just have not had the time to read them and type up a post!  Hopefully it will be back next week, so stay tuned!  Here's what I've been up to the past couple of weeks:

Matt's parents visited last weekend, so we went with them to tour Vicksburg, MS, where one of the Civil War battles took place.  It was pretty neat to see the layout of the battlefield, cannons, and the monuments commemorating soldiers of the North and South.

In addition to research and lab work, I've had exams, papers, and other fun school assignments due. Enough said.

I started filling graduate school applications for PhD programs.  I forgot how hard it is to write about yourself or document your entire academic life in an application.  It doesn't help that every school has a different online application system, so I get to enter all of it multiple times!!  And don't get me started on drafting a personal statement...(anyone care to proofread/edit for me?!)

Hopefully once applications are done and submitted, life will return back to "normal" for a while.  Actually, it will lead right into the holiday season, so it probably won't be normal at all!!! :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Science Saturday 1.6: Fruit Wash, Dyslexic Font, Pi, & More

*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*

A company has developed a dissolvable sticker that turns into a fruit wash when wet and rubbed.  Labels on fruit are always a pain to rip off, and oftentimes it is difficult to wash off the gluey remains of said sticker.  Well with a little bit of water and rubbing, this sticker will become soap and leave you with a pesticide and sticker free fruit snack.

I love typography and discovering new fonts.  But I never really thought about how an appealing font was processed in the brain.  A new 'dyslexic' font has been designed specifically to help those who suffer from the reading disability.  While sufferers often see letters as mirror images, flipped upside down, or other alterations, this new font is designed with slight alterations to the height, size, slant, etc. of each letter to reduce reading errors.


A pair of math enthusiasts in Japan have calculated pi to the 10 trillionth digit.  Suffering from a hard drive crash and then the earthquake last spring, it took just a little less than one year for the computer to calculate the 10 trillionth digit, setting a new Guiness record.

Researchers at Microsoft and Carnegie Mellon University have developed the OmniTouch, a projectable screen that can turn any surface into an interactive touch pad.

Creature Feature:
In honor of the upcoming holiday, enjoy these images of Desmodus rotundus, the common vampire bat.

Friday, October 28, 2011


While in line at Walmart today, there was a rack of pumpkin carving materials.  I looked at them.  Then looked at Matt and confessed:

I have never carved a pumpkin.

At least from what I can remember from childhood, I don't think I've ever carved a pumpkin.  Matt was in total shock, knowing that a craftypants and fall-lover like me has never partaken in this autumn tradition.  I think it's a little too late to carve pumpkins now - I feel like October is pumpkin month...November is turkey month.  AH! It's almost November!!!

So next year, Matt needs to make sure that I fulfill this crafty void in my life and we will carve pumpkins. I'm sure mine will look something like this...


Monday, October 24, 2011

Entertainment High

I get sucked into TV shows...wait, let me try that again...I get sucked into *good* TV shows.  While we don't have cable and rarely turn on the TV during regular programming times, we usually find out about a good show and then spend hours upon hours having marathons.  Matt and I actually began our friendship spending an all-nighter watching episodes of "24".  So we can thank Jack Bauer for our marriage ;)

While I normally don't like reality or competition shows - there are two that I adore.  The Sing-Off and The Voice.  Mostly because they feature REAL talent and are subjected to educated critique of their musical abilities.  Well this season of The Sing-Off has some amazing a capella groups, but there are two that stand out above the rest:

Also, in the past week, I've been introduced to two new-to-me shows.  First, while I don't understand the recent vampire craze, I can totally jump on the zombie craze wagon.  Mostly because I think I could totally work for the CDC and help create the "cure" for the zombie causing disease...haha.  Well I watched all of season 1 of "The Walking Dead" in a couple days, just in time for the season two premiere.  This show is just so well written and I love that it has a real focus on character development, not just bloody gore for shock value.
My other new obsession is "Prison Break".  My sister has been trying to get me to watch it for years, and I finally sat down and started it...WOW.  I'm totally developing a stressful heart condition from watching this show.  It's SO suspenseful, and I love seeing brilliant genius characters use their smarts to  do "bad" things.
Thank goodness for Netflix instant :)  What shows are you currently addicted to?!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Science Saturday 1.5: Quantum Levitation, Facebook and the Brain, & more

*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*

A video demonstrating "quantum levitation" (really quantum locking) made its way all over the interwebs at the beginning of the week.  Physics was never my thing, so explaining how this works is like translating Greek...but from what I understand, this is a demonstration of the Meissner effect - the disc is a superconductor, cooled by liquid nitrogen, which "locks" the magnetic field, keeping the disc suspended in whatever dimensions it is positioned.

A malaria vaccine has been developed and is currently in final stages of clinical trials.  In large trial done in Africa, the risk of getting malaria was reduced by 50%.  There are approximately 1,000,000 deaths caused by malaria each year,  89% occurring in Africa (via CDC).  If all goes well, the vaccine could be on the market by 2015.

Does social networking make you smarter?  Or rather, do smart people use social networking? New research suggests that there is a link between the number of Facebook friends and the density of certain areas of the brain.  It was found that "a larger number of friends can be statistically linked to greater grey matter density in the right superior temporal sulcus, left middle temporal gyrus and entorhinal cortex...areas of the brain associated with social perception and associative memory."  I doubt they polled YouTube commenters for this study.

With Apple's release of the iPhone 4S, a lot of talk was about Siri, an AI personal assistant of sorts.  This program has been compared to IBM's Watson, and the fictional HAL 9000 and GLaDOS.  Well check out this old school Sesame Street clip from 1984 where a teacher asks her students "what is a computer?" and "how are we different from a computer?"  I wonder if any of those young students are helping develop the artificial intelligence of today and the future...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

...when autumn leaves start to fall.

Some Wednesday randoms...

*It's 55 degrees outside.  I'm sure native Mississippians are hating this, but I LOVE it!  This is what fall should feel like.  I finished crocheting a cowl last night and was excited to be able to wear it today!

*I've been getting really bad migraines lately - I've had them off and on for the past couple years, but never this many within the span of a couple weeks.  I think I figured out the culprit though...I bought a new shampoo, an extra body volumizing shampoo, and I think it is adding too much extra weight so it's putting constant tension on my head.  That's my guess!  Time to find another shampoo...

*I discovered a (old) new-to-me show on Netflix called DogTown.  It's about the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, a no kill animal shelter.  This National Geographic series featured stories of abused, homeless, or injured dogs who were rescued and taken to live in DogTown.  It follows their rehabilitation and usually ends with them going to their forever homes!  It's an awesome show for any animal lover to watch!

*Because of a migraine as mentioned above, I didn't get to do any real quality studying for my medical microbiology exam this past Monday.  I did not feel prepared and felt uneasy during the exam.  Well, God is good because I got my exam back today and made an A on it!  woop woop!

*Anyone know where this post's title comes from?  It's a lyric from one of my favorite jazz standards.

Hope you are having a great week!!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Science Saturday 1.4: Pirahna Barks, Peanut Allergies, Megavirus & More

Sorry, I had internet troubles yesterday, so this is officially Science Saturday on Sunday :)

*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*

Fish are known to make vocalizations as a form of communication, and a recent study shows that the feared piranha barks to communicate various types of aggressive behavior.  The sounds are made through vibrations of the swim bladder (an organ that helps fish stay afloat).

Scientists have figured out how to turn off peanut attaching peanut proteins to white blood cells, the immune system begins to adapt to the peanut proteins by bypassing TH2 T cells which cause the allergic response and recruiting regulatory T cells which help tolerate the peanut proteins, creating a short cut of sorts for the immune system response.  They hope to use this technique to help regulate various allergies in a clinical setting.

A complete theropod dinosaur fossil was found in Germany, with skin and hair-like feathers preserved along with the skeleton.  Theropod dinosaurs (which include the genus Tyrannosaurus) are rarely found  as complete fossils.  This particular specimen is estimated to be 135 million years old, and the theropod is speculated to have been a year old when it died.

Featured microbe: Megavirus
Discovered in Chilean waters, an ancient giant virus was recently discovered.  Don't worry though, it only infects bacteria.  Megavirus is 6.5% larger than the current largest known virus, mimivirus, and has 1120 genes coded in it's DNA.  A distinctive set of genes code for a viral factory, called a "stargate" (seen in the photo), only found in giant viruses.  This could help shed light on how viruses came to be.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pursuit of Truth

We live in a world divided.

Republican/Democrat.  Mac/PC. Pro-life/Pro-choice. Star Wars/Star Trek. Christian/Atheist.

As I dig deeper into my chosen area of study, the pursuit of truth and scientific fact is laid out before me.  I am growing more confident in the lab (only one little technical error so far) and doing well in my classes.  I finally feel like I am on the right track toward a career.  Perhaps medicine was not my calling, but scientific research is.  The dots are connecting.

But as a Christian, my main purpose is to bring glory to Christ and share the Gospel with the unsaved.  Is a science career going to be for my own glory and not the Lord's?  Isn't there a division between science and faith?
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17 
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
I have always believed that scientific truth is one of God's ways of letting us explore His creation and His way of blessing us to use our intelligence for His kingdom.  This belief of mine has only been strengthened as I continue my studies.  Recently, I read a wonderful book called "The Language of God" by Francis Collins, who spearheaded the Human Genome Project and is current director of NIH.  A few of his words really jumped out at me:
A believer need not fear that this investigation will dethrone the divine; if God is truly Almighty, He will hardly be threatened by our puny efforts to understand the workings of His natural world. 
Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced. God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible. So let us together seek to reclaim the solid ground of an intellectually and spiritually satisfying synthesis of ALL great truths. 
The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome. he can be worshiped in the cathedral or in the laboratory. 
While many in the scientific community believe that faith in a Creator is foolish because there is no evidence, I believe (as Collins does) that the entire natural world IS evidence of a Creator.  He is merely allowing us to learn more about it (and HIM) through scientific discovery.

So let's stop dividing science and faith.  I want to continue to pursue the truth of science AND the truth of the Gospel, and worship my Lord while I do it.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Science Saturday 1.3: Quadruple Rainbow, Nobel Prizes, Monkey Mind Control & More

*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*

Volume 1 Issue 3

This week, the Nobel Prize winners were announced.  The selected Nobel Laureates in the sciences discovered some of the founding principles of scientific study today.
  • Physiology/MedicineBruce A. Beutler and Jules A. Hoffmann for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity and Ralph M. Steinman for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity
  • PhysicsSaul Perlmutter, Brian P. Schmidt, and Adam G. Riess for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae
  • ChemistryDan Shechtman for the discovery of quasicrystals
Laureates receive a gold medal, a diploma, and a cash award.  An interesting piece of history is that in 1940, it was illegal for any gold to leave Nazi Germany.  However, two Jewish Nobel Laureates (Max von Laue and James Franck) sent their gold medals to physicist Niels Bohr (also a Nobel Laureate) in Denmark, hoping he would hide them.  Knowing that the Nazis were aware of his laboratory's affiliation with Jewish scientists, Bohr was afraid of the medals being discovered.  So he and chemist Georgy de Hevensy dissolved the Nobel Prizes in "aqua regia", a mixture of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid.  The beaker of orange liquid rested on a shelf, and the Nazis overlooked it as a common laboratory chemical.  The gold was later isolated and sent back to the Nobel Foundation who recast the medals and returned them to the Laureates.

The SOlar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) captured an amazing video for NASA.  A comet fell into the sun, and while it destroyed, a coronal mass ejection (a burst of solar wind) occurred on the opposite side, creating a strikingly beautiful image.

Scientists at Duke University have outfitted monkeys with a "“brain-machine-brain interface” or BMBI, which allows them to control a virtual arm with only their minds to interact with virtual objects.  Electrodes connected to the monkey's motor cortex decipher the monkey's thoughts and allow the neurons in the somatosensory cortex to control sense of touch.  The monkey's think and feel that they are moving the virtual arm.  Future trials will lead to an actual physical robotic arm before human testing.  This proves to benefit amputees and patients with paralysis who could be able to control artificial limbs or wheelchairs.

A picture of the first fourth-order rainbow was reported in Germany.  While only two of the bows are visible in the picture, the other two bows are actually behind the photographer, as he is facing the sun.  Rainbows are formed when light is reflected from inside raindrops, thus a primary rainbow is formed on the opposite side of the sky from the sun.  A second reflection can occur on the same side of the raindrops, and third and fourth-order reflections make their way around the droplet, causing a faint bows to appear on the same side of sky as the sun.

Featured microbe: Bacillus anthracis

Commonly known by the disease Anthrax, this bacteria produces spores which allow it to survive harsh conditions.  While common in animals such as sheep, cattle, and goats, anthrax can be transmitted to humans.  Anthrax infection can occur cutaneously (on the skin), by inhalation, or in the gastrointestinal tract.  Bacillus anthracis caused a scare in 2001 when spores were used in bioterrorist attacks through the mail.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fall Food

It's still hot here in Mississippi, though the humidity has dropped and I have been enjoying the lovely cool breeze.  It's much cooler in the mornings and evenings, and we finally turned the A/C off and opened the bedroom window the other night.

When I think of fall, I think of football and food.  I've come across a plethora of tasty fall recipes that I've been dying to try out.  I made two loaves of beer bread last night, and it is deeeelish.  What do you think I should try next? (click images for recipes)


Connecting the Dots

Steve Jobs passing was very sad and tragic.  He certainly made a great impact in shaping the technology world as we know it today.  He was an innovator, believing in creativity and vision.  And he believed in living life to the fullest.  His speech at Stanford's commencement ceremony in 2005 is as inspiring today as it was for those graduates that year.  Two parts of his speech really stuck out to me:

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life...

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

I don't know what Jobs believed, but the way I interpret his words is clear as a bell - that God has a great plan for our lives.  I've had so many ups and downs in my life so far, and I'm sure there will be many more forks in the road - but I believe in God's loving faithfulness, provision, and purpose for my life.  As said in Steve Job's speech, the dots DO connect.  It's always amazing to look back and see how God was at work during the toughest parts of my life!  Whenever I feel discouraged or lost about my future, it is so comforting to remember that the Lord will provide, and through faith, dedication, and hard work, I can achieve my goals.

Steve Jobs had a great impact on many people's lives.  As a Christian, I wonder how my life will impact others.  Am I living the life God has purposed for me?  Do you think you will make an impact on others?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Science Saturday 1.2: Schrödinger's Cat, Miracle Fruit, Cantaloupe outbreak & more

Volume 1 Issue 2

Remember learning about Schrödinger's cat in physics class?  Well this snappy animation explains the paradoxical concept in one minute!

When I was a young girl, I was obsessed with cryptography and codes (as a lot of kids are).  Scientists have developed a coding system using fluorescent strains of E. coli bacteria called stenography by printed arrays of microbes or SPAM.   Each fluorescent color combination represents a different letter/symbol.  Certain antibiotics are then used as a "key" to unlock the message.  If the bacteria are resistant to the given antibiotic, it displays the message.  If a different/wrong antibiotic is used, the encrypted message remains a jumble of letters.  While not a practical method of sending secret messages, it does have "potential for watermarking genetically modified organisms with 'biological barcodes', to trace their provenance and prevent counterfeits."

Seeing is believing.  The McGurk Effect demonstrates that when the brain receives conflicting sensory input (sight and sound), the eyes trump the ears.  Even when you know it is an illusion, the McGurk Effect still works!  Watch and see!  Is he saying BAH or FAH?

Miracle fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum), a small red berry, contains a protein called miraculin which, when consumed, makes sour taste sweet.  This protein binds to the sweet taste receptors on the tongue and become activated when introduced to an acidic (sour) environment.  It's possible that it also blocks sour taste receptors.  Anyone wanna go taste-tripping?

Featured microbe: Listeria monocytogenes
This month there has been a multistate outbreak of listeriosis, food poisoning caused by this bacteria.  The source has been traced to a cantaloupe farm in Colorado.  Listeriosis symptoms include fever and muscle aches, with possible diarrhea.  This predominantly affects the elderly, young children, pregnant women, or those with weak immune systems (due to AIDS, cancer, etc.)


*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Science Saturday 1.1: FTL, Mind Readers, Gamers and AIDS, & more

Welcome to a new segment on my little ol' blog.  I've been doing a lot more "scientific" reading in various blogs and news sources ever since I decided I wanted to pursue a PhD in the future.  So as a way to collect some of the cool stories I've found, I will be posting every Saturday (hopefully) with some geeky-science tidbits.  I hope it helps you discover something new!

*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*

Volume 1 Issue 1

A group of Italian scientists have studying a beam of neutrinos (a small subatomic particle that is electrically neutral) traveling from a physics laboratory in Switzerland.  Recent results tracked these particles moving faster than light, defying modern physics and causing Einstein to roll in his grave.  Further research needs to be done, and the results need to be recreated by other laboratories for this breakthrough to become fully accepted by the scientific community.  But maybe I should start plans for building the Millenium Falcon.  I wanna beat Han's Kessel Run record.

Neuroscientists at UC-Berkeley have been able to map activity in the visual cortex of the brain while watching movie trailers.  They then were able to use YouTube clips as a database and recreate the movie images by assembling possible image matches with the brain scan results.  The quality is quite poor, but it is still a fascinating step towards being able to "mind read" and possibly visualize dreams or memories.

Are you a mom concerned with your child playing too many video games?  Well maybe they will be the next person to solve a puzzling problem in AIDS research! A game called Foldit was developed to recruit gamers to put together the 3-dimensional structure of various proteins.  While biologists have been working for years to find the right structure, gamers recently came up with multiple solutions for M-PMV (the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus which causes AIDS in monkeys) in 3 weeks.  This is one great example of citizen science, where non-scientists volunteer their time to contribute to research findings.

Featured microbe: Nipah virus
This virus served as the model for the fictional MEV-1 virus featured in the recent movie, Contagion.  Naturally occurring in fruit bats (Pteropodidae family), this virus is a zoonotic pathogen, meaning it can cause disease in animals and humans.  Human infection presents as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or respiratory disease.

Nipah virus electron micrograph