Electronic Tongues

I do this lab with my advanced biology class called “The Mystery Milk” lab. I give them 4 unknown liquids and they have to use a series of indicators to figure out what these milk-like products are. The students always ask me if they can taste the products (Answer: No, it’s a science lab). But imagine if there WAS a device that acted like a tongue for mystery liquids… Beer, Wine, Milk Scientists have used a combination of techniques to create electronic tongues (and noses). The tongue was able to identify wine from beer from milk. In fact, it was…

algae

Holding Up the Line: RuBisCo

With all the extra CO2 we’ve been putting into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, the age of global warming is finally upon us. In our scramble to find new sources of energy, some scientists have turned to algae. The logic is there: plants take CO2 and make O2. More plants = less CO2. It’s even carbon neutral! Problem solved, right? A New Kind of Biofuel Algae are a promising source of alternative fuel because, in the right conditions, they grow fast and don’t take up a lot of space. Anyone who has ever had to spend a Saturday afternoon…

The CRISPR-Cas System

It’s about time I covered CRISPR, don’t you think? It’s the hottest topic in science since space-tardigrades! Once again, no, water bears can’t live in space naked, they have to be in a dry tun. Back to CRISPR though, this new gene editing technology isn’t actually new at all. Bacteria have been using it as an adaptive immune system to remember past viral infections. Some History and Terminology CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. They are exactly what their name says they are… In 1987, scientists noticed these repeating sequences in E. Coli and eventually, other scientists…

donkeys

Someone Actually Did A Study On This…

Donkeys may seem like hardy animals, but a scientific study has shown that these big-eared equines don’t do well in cold weather. Before we dive into the weird world of equine winter coat-lengths, let’s first look at some equine terms that you need to be familiar with. Also, they may be useful later on in life when you’re playing trivia or something. Horses vs Donkeys Horses and donkeys all fall under the genus Equus, which includes other horse-like animals such as zebras and onagers. Physically, the differences are obvious. Donkeys are shorter with big ears. Horses are taller with small…

CBD, THC, and ECS

I recently had the chance to do some research on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and cannabidiol (CBD). What I realized was that there are lots of myths, some truths, and way too much marketing. So, in this post, I’ll simply present to you what the research says. No gimmicks, I’m not selling anything, and you’re free to make your own decisions. Endocannabinoid System The ECS consists of three parts: ligands, receptors, and deactivating enzymes. The ligands are lipid-based molecules called endocannabinoids and they bind to the receptors, CB1 and CB2. Deactivating enzymes do exactly that, deactivate the ligands after they’ve…

How Nerves Fire

Whack! OUCH! Ever wonder how pain from a whacked hand gets to your brain so quickly? Also, what do people mean when they say we have electrical impulses inside our bodies? In this post, we’ll take a look at how nerves send messages throughout your body. Though, let’s not call it “firing nerves”, in biology we use the term “action potential”. Anatomy of a Neuron A neuron is a nerve cell. It resembles a smashed spider with a long, frayed tail. The spider part is analogous to the cell body, the long tail is the axon, and the frayed end…

Nanoparticles

Tiny UPS… or something You’ve learned about phage therapy, quorum sensing and quorum quenching, which means, hello PhD! I’m just kidding, no grad student has the time to jump from topic to topic like this. But for us curious nerds, the next topic in the fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria is nanoparticles. Specifically, using them to deliver drugs. Sometimes, antibiotics don’t reach the cell because of the biofilm, and this physical problem requires a physical solution: tiny delivery systems. Nanoparticles Nanoparticles are usually some sort of metal or carbon polymer. They have a positive charge so that they can interact…

Quorum Sensing

Chattering Bacteria Ever notice how animals are able to communicate, move, hunt, and travel in large groups? Bacteria are no different. Quorum sensing, in the simplest sense, is bacteria chatter. Instead of using words, they use chemicals. Once these communication chemicals build up to a certain level, they affect gene expression and transcription. Antibiotic Resistance If you’ve been following along, you probably read about phage therapy, one of the novel ways to treat antibiotic resistance bacteria. As promised, I’m introducing another method: quorum sensing. The goal of quorum sensing research is to figure out how bacteria talk to each other….

Correlation, Causation, and the NFL

It’s Football Season… Tom Brady posted about the Madden “curse” the other day and it got me thinking, “Is it really a curse or just clever manipulation of events?” Of course, this reminded me of how often people confuse correlation with causation. My initial example (on my Instagram account) was about vaccines and autism (that’s a link to the retraction), but it drew too much heat. So, let’s try this again with football and the NFL. What is the Curse There are currently 21 Madden covers (1999-2019) and 24 players that have graced the covers. But before I begin my…