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.*


  1. Oh please, please, please, keep these coming!! I love it!!

    I seriously love reading all kinds of blog posts, but the ones that intrigue me most are the ones that teach me something.

    You are doing a fabulous job!

  2. I'd like to point out that Schrodinger came up with this thought experiment to demonstrate the absurdity of generalizing what happens at the atomic level to the macroscopic level. Personally, I subscribe to the Copenhagen view, largely because it is the one which seems to be corroborated by experiment, but there are plenty of holes to be found in just about any quantum mechanical theory. For me at least, this seems to be good evidence that we don't have a complete understanding of what's really going on and there are some corrections to quantum field theory that need to be made.

  3. Very cool! Being the puzzle geek that I am, the SPAM bit was my favorite. I love cryptogram puzzles & always wanted to decode when I was little.