Monday, October 30, 2006

Geo Ducks or shall I say "Gooey Ducks"?

Has anyone ever heard of Geoducks. Pronounced gueyducks. They are these really amazing clams that live for an average of about 146 years. Pretty amazing life span I would say. I happen to see them on a show called Dirty Jobs and figure I would make a blog about them. I enjoyed the segment of Dirty Jobs on the discovery channel where Mike Rowe (Host of the show) jumps into a shore that had millions of Geoducks planted in it. It was also pretty entertaining when he actually got to see what they were used for. He visits a chinese restaurant and finds out that they use Geoducks for making sashimi. Anyway, I thought it was pretty entertaining so if you want to learn more about them check em' out.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sodium Potassium Pump

Here are a couple of animations for you - the first one is a bit over-the-top, especially with the sound effects; the second a bit boring, but more complete:

Na+/K+ pump animation #1
Na+/K+ pump #2

Extremophiles...on Mars?

Well, those pesky little extremophiles can't seem to leave us alone. They're in the news again - this time by giving credence to the idea that life may be possible on Mars. Apparently some microbes collected from Antarctic lakes are able to survive AND reproduce at temperatures as low as minus 28 degrees Celsius - comparable to some Martian subsurface temperatures.

Speaking with no expertise on the matter, I honestly doubt that life exists elsewhere in our solar system, but if it does, extremophiles are sure to be the life-forms found out there. You just can't get rid of those little buggers.

Life on Mars?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

One of Biology's Great Mysteries

As New Englanders we are particularly in tune with the changing colors of deciduous tree leaves during autumn. It is one of those seasonal cues that warns us of the approaching winter, reminds us of a new school year, and makes us think of jack-o-lanterns, apple-picking, and fall harvests.

Scientists have long know how the leaves change colors. As leaves prepare to fall off the tree (an adaptation for the colder temperatures approaching), they stop producing chlorophyll, the pigment that makes leaves green. Without the green pigmentation, other pigments are produced, and thus, other colors "shine through". We even know the molecular makeup of these pigments. However, biologists have yet to figure out why trees bother to produce these other colors. Why spend energy on creating a red or yellow or orange pigment?

Carl Zimmer has a post on his blog that discusses some experiments that investigate changing leaf color. There are some intriguing ideas there, but, in the end, we still do not know why leaves change color.

Autumn Leaves

Monday, October 16, 2006

Membrane Transport Animation

Here's a rather nicely done animation that takes you through the various types of transport through the cell membrane - simple diffusion, facilitated diffusion, osmosis, and various active transport mechanisms. We haven't (yet) convered all this in class, but the animation is worth a look.

Membrane Transport

Thursday, October 12, 2006

online cell models

Not sure if this will be helpful, but here's a link to "interactive" plant and animal cells and their contents. I haven't explored the rest of the site, but it may also contain other useful tools as well.

Cells Alive

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Inner Life of Cells

As we get ready to begin our exploration of the cell and its processes, here is a very cool computerized "music video" for you to take a look at. I don't have a lot of info about it except that it was made at Harvard and that it contains a lot of computerized video of the inner workings of cells and macromolecules. If nothing else it is an amazing example of the intersection of art and science. I will try to find out if this is a small example of a larger piece or if there is a "scene list" somewhere. But for now, sit back and enjoy.


(you should probably have a high speed connection for this one - and you'll need the Flash player to view it)

update: I just found an unofficial explanation of the video by someone named Andrew Sobala

Monday, October 02, 2006

Coldly goes the sloth

James' question in class about sloth body temperature made me curious, so I ran a quick search and came up with a couple of links for your enjoyment. Indeed, sloth body temperature is lower than most mammals. Whether they're slow because their body temperature is low or their body temp is low because they're slow is another question. And I have no idea how this effects the relative activity rate of slothian enzymes....though I am sure you all can make some hypotheses about the optimal temperature of them...maybe even something about the range of temperatures they function over.
Wilderness Classroom


Nothing too exciting, but here's a rotating, 3D model of catalase...

Catalase model