Sunday, January 28, 2007


Just wanted to thank you all for being a great class and for keeping me somewhat sane during my brief time at AHS. I truly am grateful to have met you all and to have been your teacher. I tried to make biology as exciting and interesting as I think it is and I wish you all good luck as you enter your last semester of high school. I know that this transition is less than ideal, but I also know that you, as a class, and Ms. Ravesi will move forward without missing a step - just keep working together and pushing forward like you've done all year so far. Each of you brings different talents to the classroom, which is one of the things that I enjoyed most - the combination of personalities that made the classroom comfortable, engaging, dynamic, interesting, and fun. I will miss you.

Even though I cannot be there for you in the classroom, I am going to try to keep posting interesting/useful items here on the blog. Also, feel free to email me if I can help you with anything - or post questions here.

Well, all for now. For those of you who see this, please relay my sentiments to the rest of the class. Thanks and good luck!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Tree of Life

The Tree of Life Web Project is an amazing database that is attempting to reconstruct the evolutionary history of life on Earth. Essentially, the Project is a database of cladograms. The amount of information there is enormous and the various terms that are used to describe the groups of organisms can be daunting, but it is a fun place to explore (well, I think it's fun anyways). Here are a few links to help you start your exploration (and fun)...

(tip: you can click on the triangle at the base of any cladogram or the "containing group" link to go back in evolutionary time)

Placental Mammals - most "traditional" mammals

Diapsida - not many cladograms here, but follow the links to see the unexpected bird relationships

Animals - from sponges to humans


The Tree of Life homepage

Monday, January 15, 2007

New Marine Life Form

Yet another example of how much more we have to discover about the natural world - an entirely new branch of the evolutionary tree has been discovered in the Artic Ocean. This is not just a new species, but a lineage of life that has never been seen before - the picobiliphytes.

Superficially these new organisms are very small algae, but their DNA suggest that they are as different from other algae as land plants are from animals. It's exact place on the tree of life and how this discovery may help us learn more about evolution (of eukaryotes in particular) are yet to be determined. Once again, we can see how the the study of biology is constantly pushing forward - just how thick will the AP textbook be 15 years from now?!?!

New Form of Life

(thanks to my wife for bringing this discovery to my attention!)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Human evolution

Given the fact that we are all Homo sapiens it is not surprising that there was an interest in class about the evolution of humans. There are so many interesting and thought-provoking questions that I thought I would direct you to some websites that discuss our origins:

The Evolution of Man - a site maintained by the BBC that contains a number of good articles

Becoming Human - an online documentary about human evolution

The Genographic Project - National Geographic's project on the geographic expansion of humans out of Africa

there are plenty more sites out there, but this should give you a good start...enjoy

Monday, January 08, 2007

Frogs in pots!!!WHAT?!!!!!1

Hello everyone. I thought since everyone enjoyed my geoducks post so darn much, that I would try my luck again. In this case it has to do with Frogs as you might have guessed. I'm not sure if it is the fact that frogs are naturally unintelligent, or it is a matter of adaption. People might remember what James was talking about in class today when he said that people that crashed in an airplane, didn't not get out of the plane when it was burning. They could have easily have gotten out, but choose not too. I have a feeling that this might be an example of what James was talking about.
So here is how the story goes. There is a story that I have heard a fair amount of times about frogs in pots. I have no idea who would test this theory out, but many apparently have. When a frog is put into a pot filled with Hot water, it will immediately hop right out. If the water is relatively cold the frog will react by staying in the pot. It does not mind the cold as much. This is understandable. The confusing part about the story is that when the frog is put in relatively cold water and the temperature goes up incrementally, the frog does no jump out. If someone was to turn the heat up two degrees at a time the frog has no reaction. Instead of hopping out when it gets to hot, it boils up inside and dies.
I figured it was an interesting idea, that might have something to do with what James was talking about in class today. I don't think the frog wants to die, but it is more of a mental issue within the frog's mind. It is either a question of pyschology or it is a matter of neurotransmitters and nerve impulses. If anyone has any information why this occurs, or any guesses just put them in the comments section.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Phospholipids of the Deep...

I know it's going to seem like I am fawning over the Deep Sea News blog (and I guess I am a bit), but this post was really too relevant to pass up...

Their newest "Thing to know about the deep sea" post basically discusses everything we covered in the first term of class - biochemistry, cell membranes, phospholipds, saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, transport across membranes, enzyme kinetcis, etc. - all with a deep sea twist. In fact, I bet you guys could figure out some of the details given what you learned back at the beginning of the semester.

In fact, before you click over to their post, think about the following details about the deep sea and how it might affect the biochemistry of cell membranes and enzymes (this is a good way to review the past material too!):

a) In the deep sea pressure on cell membranes may be as much as 1,000x more than on land.
b) The deep sea is very cold (as low as -1 degree C)

How do you think these two things would affect:
1) The fluidity of cell membranes
2) The function of enzymes

And how do you think deep sea critters have handled these effects? Post your ideas here in the comment section before moving on to check out the post.

Deep Sea Biochemistry (post your ideas here before clicking over - don't cheat!)

The Sound of Silence...

Here's the link to that article I mentioned in class about the not-so-silent mutation. New things there anything more facinating than biology? (that's a rhetorical question by the way)

The Sound of a Silent Mutation